A Swedish composer, conductor, violinist, and painter.
He was born in Stockholm and studied at the Conservatory there from 1887 to 1891, also taking private lessons from Johan Lindegren. He also toured Europe as a conductor throughout his life. He played the violin in the Hovkapellet (the Swedish court orchestra), and from 1910 was director musices
at the University of Uppsala, a post he held until 1939. There he also directed the male voice choir Orphei Drangar until 1947. With Wilhelm Stenhammar, he became known as one of Sweden's principal composers.
Alfven's music is in a fairly traditional late-Romantic idiom, colourfully orchestrated and often programmatic, attempting to evoke the Swedish landscape. Among his works are a large number of pieces for male voice choir, five symphonies and three orchestral 'Swedish Rhapsodies', of which the first, Midsommarvaka (Midsummer Vigil, 1903, often simply known as 'Swedish Rhapsody'), ranks as his best known piece.