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Björlin was born in Stockholm and went as a 19-year-old to study music for the conductor Igor Markevitch in Salzburg, later continuing at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he had Nadia Boulanger as a teacher. After completing his military service, he worked at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm and at the Malmö College of Music. From 1962, he was employed as musical producer at Sveriges Radio and wrote music for several movies and television productions, including the series of films and TV series about the children on the island Saltkråkan (Seacrow Island), based on Astrid Lindgren's scripts.
He worked with Evert Taube, his neighbor from a very young age. Later, together with Sven-Bertil Taube, he also produced a number of recordings of songs by Carl Michael Bellman, Evert Taube and Ulf Peder Olrog. He conducted several recordings of orchestral music by fellow Swedes Johan Helmich Roman and Franz Berwald.
During the last years before his death, he worked in Florida mostly, where he was conductor of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, Florida Festival Philharmonic and the Palm Beach Symphony. He had composed important work such as the "Musical Portrait of Raoul Wallenberg" in the years before his passing and several operas. He was known to be the most active opera composer in the world in the 20th century.
Björlin received among other prizes the Fritz Gustaf Grafström Prize in 1961 and shared the Evert Taube Prize with Sven-Bertil Taube in 1975. He received the Swedish Music Achievement prize, In 1980, he received the 'Golden key' to the city of Newport, Rhode Island for his musical achievements and for bringing culture to their town. The 7th (?) of September was declared 'Maestro Ulf Bjorlin Day' by the Mayor of Newport.
At the time of his passing, it was noted that he was survived by his wife, Fary; three daughters: Nadia, of Palm Beach, Katja Salen of Stockholm, and Kamilla Pariser of Marblehead, Mass.; three sons: Ulf Jr and Jean-Paul, both of Palm Beach, and Kaj, of Stockholm; two brothers, and two grandchildren.
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