Atterberg: Rhapsody, Op. 1; Piano Concerto in B flat minor. Op. 37; Ballade & Passacaglia, Op. 38

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Atterberg
WORKS: Rhapsody, Op. 1; Piano Concerto in B flat minor. Op. 37; Ballade & Passacaglia, Op. 38
PERFORMER: Love Derwinger (piano): NDR Radio Philharmonic Hannover/Ari Rasilainen
CATALOGUE NO: 999 732-2
Atterberg himself conducted his Ballade and Passacaglia for Swedish HMV in the dying days of shellac and it ranks among his stronger works. Ari Rasilainen gives a very convincing account of it here. When I first heard the Piano Concerto (1927-35) in Dan Franklin Smith’s recording on the always enterprising Sterling label, it struck me as the kind of concerto you might expect to encounter in a Hollywood film of the Forties. This is the more subtle performance; there are some characteristic harmonic touches but ultimately the ideas are wanting in distinction and freshness. The finale is dreadfully banal. Not even the artistry of Love Derwinger and the dedication of Rasilainen and the NDR orchestra prove persuasive. The solo piano-writing is unremitting and relentless with hardly a minute’s rest. Sterling’s disc comes with the earlier and more interesting Violin Concerto, but this newcomer has the advantage of better balanced and more transparent and detailed sound. The Op. 1 Rhapsody comes from 1908, the year after Atterberg enrolled as a student of electrical engineering, and is an accomplished piece, Lisztian in character but very well crafted. Atterberg has written much fine music but his long eight-year struggle with the piano concerto did not conclude in triumph. Robert Layton