WORKS: Violin Concerto in E minor; Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Christian Bergqvist (violin); Gävle SO/Göran W Nilson
CATALOGUE NO: CDS-1044-2
If you have not heard of Josef Otto af Sillén (1859-1951) you are not alone. He is not listed in Grove or Baker’s or in Sohlman, their Swedish equivalent. Nor does he figure in the Aulin-Connor Svensk Musik, though he rates a mention in Lennart Hedvall’s study of the Swedish Symphony. Sillén pursued a military career and then turned to insurance, while at the same time being active in the Philharmonic Society: he was briefly in charge of the Stockholm Opera and held a court position.
The Violin Concerto probably dates from the early Twenties and the Third Symphony was premiered in 1937, when he was in his late seventies. It is obvious that he was a musician of culture but in neither work does he betray an individual voice or any sense of mastery or what the Germans call Meisterschaft. The concerto, dedicated to his daughter, Greta af Sillén Roos, an Auer pupil who, alas, never played it, opens like Bruch and in the symphony there is a lot of Tchaikovsky. There are moments in the slow movement of the symphony which are rather endearing: the scherzo is Mendelssohnian but without
that master’s lightness of touch or charm. Christian Bergqvist is the accomplished soloist and the symphony is given a serviceable performance and recording.