Atterberg: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 4 (Sinfonia piccola)

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COMPOSERS: Atterberg
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 4 (Sinfonia piccola)
PERFORMER: Frankfurt RSO/Ari Rasilainen
CATALOGUE NO: 999 639-2
It is good to note the continuing interest CPO is showing in Atterberg, whose best work, such as the wonderful Suite No. 3 for violin, viola and strings, deserves a place in the pantheon. The First Symphony (1909-11) was composed in his early twenties while he was still studying engineering and before he chose to follow his musical calling – alongside a career in the Swedish Patent Office from which he retired at the age of 81 (no ageism in Seventies Stockholm). Of course, it is derivative but accomplished, with echoes of Strauss, Bruckner and Brahms. Atterberg conducted its premiere when he was 25 and the piece was subsequently taken up by Stokowski and Carl Nielsen, no less.

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Along with the celebrated Sixth, which won the Schubert competition in 1928, the Sinfonia piccola of 1918 is the most recorded of the symphonies (there was even a 78rpm set). It is a bit folksy, but enjoyable, particularly in this committed performance by the Frankfurt Orchestra under the Finnish conductor Ari Rasilainen. These two symphonies are coupled together on an eminently serviceable Sterling CD, but those coming to this music for the first time should opt for this newcomer. It is every bit as well played (if not better) and has the advantage of fine recorded sound. Robert Layton