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Moses PERGAMENT (1893-1977)
Violin Sonata in B minor (1918-20) [30.25]
String Quartet No. 1 (1918-22) [37.20]
Nils-Erik Sparf (violin)
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Lysell Quartet
rec. Studio 2, Radiohuset, 15-16 Nov 2000 (sonata); 17-19 Aug 2000. DDD
Musica Sveciae Modern Classics No. 11

Moses Pergament came of a Jewish family. He was born in Finland. He was a friend of Sibelius and Pergament's brother, the conductor Simon Parmet, plays a part in Sibelius's life story. Early on he absorbed Jewish culture at the synagogue and a Hassidic curve to the tumult in the long finale of the sonata bear witness to this. He became a citizen of Sweden in 1919. He revered Wagner. His living was made through music journalism but he made time for composition. There are many concert songs but in addition a string of major works: Krelantems and Eldeling (1920-27), the choral symphony The Jewish Song (1944), the oratorio The Seven Deadly Sins (1949), the chamber opera The Secret of Heaven (1953), the radio opera Eli (1959) and the unperformed symbolist opera Abrams Erwachen (1966-73).

Pergament's Violin Sonata is one of those works of the teens of the century that are caught in full song, Gynt-like playful reflection and Mephisto grotesquerie. Across three movements it is in sun-warmed Delian song, continuous and richly accented. There is no hesitation or preparation of the ground; we are straight into the tireless flow of song. This is aided by Sparf's febrile tone. Equivalent works include the violin sonatas by Grieg, Delius, Rootham, Dunhill, Rootham, Ireland and the earlier ones by Goossens and Howells. The work is in four movements. The fourth starts in discord and develops into the rhapsodic and sometimes stormily double-stopped singing of the first with a fine influx of mid-European and passion-soaked ghetto flavouring.

Passion also carries the day in the bursting intensity of the epic Quartet which has the stormy multi-strata impetus of mid-period Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg in the first movement. It finds a folksy repose in the second movement in the form of the somewhat Grainger-like variations on Det gingo tvá flickor i rosendelund but even this folksong, squeezed for every drop of sweet 'juice', is presented as a rhapsody in the attire of expressionism - delicate and tempestuous. Rather as with the finale of the sonata the final movement of the quartet incites Pergament to passionate dissonance but this is of the haunted type that launches from Delius and Bridge. It then moves into the eldritch tonalities of Bernard van Dieren and Bridge's late period before gathering itself for a surprisingly conventional sign-off.

Two rare, surprising and impressive examples of sunset Delian romanticism into expressionistic complexity. This disc is an absolute must if your interests track from Delius, to Van Dieren, to Zemlinsky, to Schoenberg and Berg.

The notes are encyclopedically full and the playing matches the considerable emotional and technical demands of this music.

Rob Barnett

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