Atterberg: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6

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COMPOSERS: Atterberg
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Atterberg: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 4 & 6; A Värmland Rhapsody; Suite No. 3
PERFORMER: Sara Trobäck Hesselink (violin), Per Höberg (viola); Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA5116

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Neeme Järvi continues to explore the Scandinavian Romantics, of whom Atterberg, dying only in 1974, was probably the last. He was a formidable character – composer, conductor, cello soloist, painter and, improbably, a leading patent lawyer who did much to improve composers’ copyright protection; but he is the least well known of these composers outside Sweden, without even one popular piece like Alfvén’s Swedish Rhapsody.

The Dollar Symphony is perhaps the nearest and even that’s a spiteful nickname, his rivals implying that it was just a pastiche cobbled together to win a lucrative competition set by Columbia Records in America. Actually, though the tone is distinctly sardonic – the heavy-handed conclusion was originally called ‘Finale banale’ – it was well received by figures like Nielsen, Beecham and Toscanini, who both recorded it, and it bears hearing today in Järvi’s vigorous reading.

The lyricism of A Värmland Rhapsody is certainly unfeigned, its use of folk themes and tone colours suggesting a kinship with Vaughan Williams’s Norfolk Rhapsody. Also based on folk themes, especially dance tunes, is the Sinfonia Piccola, another energetic, fresh-air piece, with an absurdly brief Scherzo. Atterberg also composed stage music and his Suite No. 3, drawn from a typically mystical Maurice Maeterlinck play, reveals a darker side. 

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Michael Scott Rohan