Atterberg: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1- Symphony No. 4 / Symphony No. 6 / Suite No. 3 / En Värmlandsrapsodi Hybrid SACD, SACD
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Back in 2010, Neeme Järvi,/b> commenced his Scandinavian project with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, offering up idiomatic performances of orchestral works by two of Norways best-loved composers, Johan Halvorsen and Johan Svendsen. Similar in its approach, this new survey turns to Norways neighbouring country, with Järvi conducting the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in orchestral works by the Swedish composer, Kurt Atterberg.
Atterberg was one of Swedens leading composers of the twentieth century, not to mention a conductor, critic, and founder of The Society of Swedish Composers. Largely self-taught, he developed a compositional style which initially owed much to Brahms and Alfvén, although he was more inclined to paint vivid, loosely structured melodic pictures than to adhere to the traditional classical frameworks. Tuneful, accessible, and fairly folkloristic too, Atterbergs music became more impressionistic by World War I, and it was around this time that he composed most of the works on this disc.
Symphony No. 4 (1918) was composed in friendly competition with a Swedish colleague, Natanael Berg. They had decided that each should compose a work lasting no longer than twenty minutes, and that a bass tuba should be heard in splendid isolation somewhere in it. The resulting piece by Atterberg is full of humour and wit, the language open and simple, and strongly inspired by Swedish folk music.
That same year, Atterberg was asked to write music to Maurice Maeterlincks play Sur Béatrice. For the theatre performance itself, he only had three musicians at his disposal, playing violin, viola, and harmonium. A few years later, however, he reworked the harmonium part of extracts from the incidental music for string orchestra, retaining the solo violin and viola, after which this became known at Suite No. 3, a work filled with beauty and passion, and ultimately one of his most frequently performed pieces.
For many years, the only work by Atterberg that circulated widely outside Sweden, in performance, recording, and notoriety, was his Symphony No. 6, for which in 1928 he won a prize awarded by the Columbia Gramophone Company for a work in the spirit of Schubert, who had died 100 years earlier.
En värmlandsrapsodi (1933) was written to mark the seventy-fifth birthday of the 1909 Nobel Prize laureate in literature, Selma Lagerlöf, and it was performed for the first time in a live broadcast by Swedish Radio. Upon hearing the piece, Lagerlöf wrote to Atterberg: It was a solemn moment when we heard the rhapsody streaming from the radio. We listened with great joy and excitement and were made happy by the echo of melodies from Värmland. May the piece live and win the peoples ear.
Chandos has captured the superb playing of the Gothenburg SO with arresting clarity and huge dynamic range in the lively acoustic of its home base, the Gothenburg Symphony Hall. --IRR, March'13
Neemi Jarvi continues to explore the Scandinavian Romantics Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine, Awards issue'13
Jarvi s is the truest and most opulently recorded. Recommended. --Gramophone, June'13
Top Customer Reviews
I would agree with others that despite Atterberg's gift for melody, the music doesn't linger in the mind after hearing. It's neat and chirpy orchestration is a delight but I do crave something more weighty after hearing the symphonies. Improbable as it might seem, listening to one of Allan Pettersson's troubled symphonies afterwards makes an effective combination. I guess that's not to many people's tastes though.
The recording is excellent with the Gothenberg SO in fine form under Neeme Jarvi. The Chandos sound engineering is excellent though I would have preferred slightly less reverb in the Fourth Symphony. This may not be premier league music but what's not to like here? Recommended.
Atterberg is not a major figure, but his brand of late Romanticism deserves a hearing, and in such a good version his music stands a better chance of being appreciated. The insert note talks of the ironic aspects of the Dollar Symphony (which Atterberg wrote to win a substantial prize, and was successful), and the experienced Neeme Jarvi brings out the unconventional aspects of the work.
The woodwind playing is particularly fine, and I enjoyed this disc.