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Larsson - Symphonies Nos 1 & 2

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x95da0054) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95db5258) out of 5 stars Nordic beauty 12 Oct. 2000
By Mr JB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Lars-Erik Larsson probably is one of northern Europes most underestimated composers of the 20th century. Maybe because he didn't wright music that was 'modern' in a time that was modern - his concern seems to have been to wright simple, beautiful music - making him more neo-classical/romantic than modernistic. His symphonies are just that, simple and beautiful, handcrafted by a man who, just like Grieg, Sibelius, Gade, Alfven and Nielsen, could catch the special melancholy of the nordic sentiment within short phrases. It's true that these symphonies doesn't give you a very new, refreshing input to the development of classical music, no great surprises, but it nevertheless is extremely beautiful and freshsounding. The instrumentation sounds like a intelligently and successfully largened stringquartet, with the same dynamic expressivness, and the same simplicity.
All this is shown in both of the symphonies. The first being mostly soft and lyrical, with lots of the very special, nordic, inseparable changes between minor and major harmonies. The second is a little more serious with a short melody, altering from one section of the orchestra to the other, and for every time it's passed on, it's also developed a little further til it reaches its most singing part, with lots of nordic dance-rythms beneath. The woodwinds plays a very important part here, sometimes changing to the strings, but always returning to the winds, with its dark, serious and in the same time transparent sound. So if the first sounds like spring/summer, the second is more like mid-winter.
To get a complete picture of the maybe most romantic nordic music you just might get in one and the same composer (Larsson) you must also try his 'Pastoral-suite', the 'romance' is suffocatingly beautiful and nothing short of worldclass, and his smaller-scale works of concertinos (especially the one for clarinet) and sinfoniettas. These have been succesfully recorded ny both EMI and BIS. All these are preferably played by swedish or nordic orchestras, as here, for there is something special about this music, that lies deep down of the nordic sentimentality, that really can't be as well understood by easteuropeans or others. This BIS-recording also have the favour of being very well balanced and engineered.
If you've heard the symphonical music of Sibelius, Grieg or any of the above stated, maybe Larsson, and liked it - Listen to this! You surely won't get disappointed. It's extremely beautiful!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95caaf60) out of 5 stars Well-crafted beauties 19 Mar. 2009
By R. Lieblich - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Mr JB has covered much of the terrain in his earlier review. One purpose of this review to agree with him, just in case anyone out there is reluctant to take the opinion of a single reviewer. Larsson has a gift for melody and the craftsmanship to make good use of it. His orchestrations are particularly striking, somehow managing to be adventurous but never disconcerting. In a way it may be unfortunate that he is best known for a couple of relatively "light" works. I think he shines far brighter in his symphonies.

The Second deserves special comment. As Mr. JB indicates, Larsson takes a single theme in the first movement and repeats it almost obsessively even as he subjects it to development. The theme itself is attractive and beautifully spun out -- and, pace Mr. JB, not short. (If there are any Beatles fans out there, it's of a similar length and nature to "Here, There and Everywhere," although there's little kinship in the actual materials.) The slow movement is truly lovely, and some of the phrases have at least a loose connection to the theme of the first movement. (I lack a copy of the score and am trusting to my ear to catch the resemblances.) Most remarkable of all is the finale, which starts out with a restatement of the first-movement theme at a pace (Larsson specifies "moderato") about half that of the same theme in the first movement ("allegretto"). That first statement is followed by several variations in passacaglia form at the same tempo, and then the music speeds up, reaching prestissimo before settling down to a brief quiet conclusion. But all this cyclical form and technical skill never interfere with the enjoyment of this tuneful, exciting symphony.

The First Symphony is comparatively lightweight, but a delight to hear, and the performances and sound are first-rate throughout. My feeling is that Amazon reviewers are too quick to award five-star ratings, but I'd give this disc a six if I could.
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