Atterberg has been a revelation to me. A friend of mine introduced me to his symphonies and I have to say I was blown away by them. They are packed with beautiful melodies, lush, rich harmonies and charming, mesmerising interludes.
My favourite on this CD is the 2nd symphony, with it's glorious opening theme which immediately transports the listener to another world/into a magical soundscape. Each movement is masterful, purposeful and truly melodic with wonderful orchestration, contrast and textures. The final movement has for me a moving and stunning climax of pure beauty.
I also adore Symphony No.8, though mainly for its first two movements rather than the last two which are not quite so strong for me (the third mvt for me rhythmically imitates the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream too much - obviously an affectionate and inspired homage to a master!).
There are many references to Sibelius, touches of Mahler and some Brahmsian majesty, but at the same time with repeated listenings you can really hear Atterberg's individual 'voice'/style coming through (he loves his lush high strings and strong, forthright brass/horn melodies, particularly in the final movements!).
I love Neeme Jarvi's/The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra's performances here - full of soul, passion, warmth and lyricism and the sound quality is fabulous. I have the Rasilainan set also, featuring an interpretation of Symphony 2 which, though full of grandeur and space (with slower tempi, particularly in the final movement) does not compare for me to the Jarvi version as it lacks warmth and emotion - strangely disconnected.
I cannot recommend these symphonies and these particular recordings enough!
The Second Symphony is probably a good entry point into Atterberg's music. It dates from 1911-1913 and I suspect that it would appeal, for example, to admirers of Sibelius's Second Symphony. The recording is great and Neeme Jarvi, a conductor I greatly admire, brings an epic grandeur to this approachable work. This version certainly meant more to me than the other two recordings I have of this work (enjoyable as they are). The folk inspired No 8 features my favourite Atterberg movement - the slow movement and I bet that once you have heard the main tune, it will stay in your mind. The last movement is not, in my view, of the same standard of inspiration as the other three, but I would still not miss this disc.
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