Born on 15 October 1905 in Striberg, near Nora in the Swedish province of Västmanland.
Grew up in Fjugesta south of Örebro, where his father had a roller blind factory.
Piano lessons early on and attempts at composition in a home filled with musical activities of many kinds.
1918–24 student at the Karolinska school in Örebro, diploma majoring in Latin in 1924.
Piano lessons in Örebro, active in the school’s arts society Brageförbundet, where he appeared both as a pianist and a composer with his own pieces. He played the bass drum and celesta in the town’s orchestral society. There, he began a lifelong friendship with a number of well-known personalities including the violinist Sven Karpe and writer Erik Hjalmar Linder.
1926-31 student at the Music Conservatory in Stockholm, first in the organ class under Otto Olsson, later also studying the piano (under Olof Wibergh), composition (under Ernst Ellberg) and conducting (under Olallo Morales). Presented his own songs and chamber music works during student concerts.
His time in Stockholm gave him much exposure to both new and older music. His first meeting with Honegger’s oratorio King David in 1927 was an especially intense experience for him.
From 1931 to 1934, Dag Wirén lived in Paris during the student seasons, where he studied instrumentation on a scholarship with the exiled Russian Leonid Sabaneyev. He appeared there with fellow student and cellist Gustav Gröndahl playing his own compositions in smaller contexts, performing among other works his Cello sonatina op 1, which was even recorded for French radio. This work was also on the programme when Gröndahl had his debut concert in Stockholm during the autumn of 1931, which was also Wirén’s more official debut as a composer. During his time in Paris, he composed several of the works that would later take root in the repertoire. While there, Wirén also met the Irish cellist Noel Franks, who became his wife in 1934.
In 1934, the couple moved to Stockholm, and from 1937 they lived in their own house in the suburb of Danderyd. In 1935, Wirén was accepted into the Society of Swedish Composers, where he worked until 1938 as a part-time librarian. In 1936, his String Quartet No. 2 was premiered at a concert sponsored by the Fylkingen Society, which was started in 1933 and where several of Wirén’s works were later presented. During the 1930s, he was also a frequent contributor to Swedish Radio as a pianist.
From 1938–46, Dag Wirén was a reviewer for the daily paper Svenska Morgonbladet. He was at the same time active with several duties for the Society of Swedish Composers and STIM.
During the Second World War (1939–45), Dag Wirén served in the military on three occasions, which disturbed his composing to a certain extent. This period also saw the first of his contributions to film music: Man glömmer ingenting (One Forgets Nothing, 1942). Wirén had already been writing theatre music when he was a student (Privatskolan [The Private School, 1930]). Music written for film and theatre would come to dominate his production, especially during the 1950s.
In 1946, Wirén was nominated to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and he sat on its board from 1948 to 1960.
In 1947, Annika, Dag and Noel Wirén’s only child, was born. This same year, Wirén took part in the founding of Svenska tonkonstnärsförbundet (The Swedish Tone Artist’s Society), and was a member of its board.
Beginning in 1948, he spent his summers on the island of Björkö, southwest of Ornö in Stockholm’s southern archipelago. The summer was “my best time,” according to Wirén, and much of his creative activity took place during these months.
From the 1950s onwards, composition dominated his workload, including several different commissions. His last position on a board of directors, at the Royal Opera (1962), ended in 1971.
From 1964, Dag Wirén became a recipient of the newly created state artist’s salary (annual income guarantee).
Dag Wirén died on 19 April 1986 in his home in Danderyd.
Prizes and awards
1960 Prix Italia (for the TV ballet The Evil Queen) and Christ Johnson Music Prize
1964 Swedish artist’s salary (lifelong income guarantee)
1975 Atterberg scholarship
1978 Litteris et artibus and Hjalmar Bergman scholarship
In 1995, the book 12 kapitel om Dag Wirén (12 Chapters on Dag Wirén, ed. L. Reimers) was published, containing personal memories, the first review of his works as a critic, a calendar, etc.
In connection with the 100thanniversary of his birth in 2005, the book Dag Wirén – en vägvisare (Dag Wirén—A Pathfinder, ed. M.Tegen, Gidlund publishing house) was published; this work studies and analyses both his instrumental music and his film and theatre music chronologically. Twelve writers take part. Wirén’s opinions and aesthetics as a music critic are researched, as well as the ideas prevalent in Paris and Sweden in the period between the wars. Wirén’s place in history is also studied. The book also contains a complete list of works with discography and a list of his work as an interpreter, etc.