Gösta Nystroem (1890-1966) belonged to the same generation as Hilding Rosenberg, and thus to the first real and significant wave of composers who broke away from the then-dominant, Wagner-inspired national romanticism. But Nystroem was not only an innovator; he was also a very good composer in his own right. His sound world is individual though there are certainly impressionistic elements, but also elements reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and Honegger; the harmonic language is explorative, but what impresses the listener in his music is his ability to use texture, shade and color more than his thematic material.
The two symphonies here, the fourth (Shakespeariana) and sixth (Sinfonia Tramontana) inhabit rather similar sound worlds, but that is not intended as a complaint, and the structures are rather different. The fourth is cast in three movements and is based on his incidental music to The Tempest. Its first movement is a dark-hued, powerful affair, generating vibrant images of a vast, deep ocean both in the slow opening and in the more energetic, though constantly changing, faster part. The second movement is meditative and calm, but the finale, with its effective and original use of dissonance, is grim, ambitious and stormy, as well as - in turns - nobly defiant. The sixth consists of two movements, each of which contains highly contrastive material (yet are coherently woven together). The first is nevertheless characterized by craggy, tempestuous material, troubled and powerful, though it ends in what might perhaps be described as constrained bliss. The second movement also varies between the dark and troubled, on the one hand, and the beautifully lyrical, on the other. It is also - like the fourth - superbly scored.
That said, despite many excellent things neither work can probably be called a masterpiece - although they are very compelling throughout their durations, little really lingers in the mind afterwards. Thus, I suppose I won't rate either work as highly as I would the composer's Sinfonia del mare, so newcomers to the composer are advised to start there. The performances, however, are superb, and BIS's sound is vivid, so all in all this is a highly recommendable release.