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Erland Von KOCH (b.1910)
Nordiskt Capriccio Op. 26 (1943) [6.43]
Symphony No. 2 Sinfonia Dalecarlica (1945) [31.10]
Viola Concerto Op. 33 (1946 rev. 1966) [19.26]
Suite No. 1 from the music for the ballet Askungen (Cinderella) Op. 24 (1942) [15.12]
Johanna Persson (viola)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/B. Tommy Andersson
rec. Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, 5 June 1998 (Capriccio); 30 Aug-1 Sept 1999 (sym); 30-31 Mar 2000 (cto); 15 Aug 2000 (Askungen). DDD
Musica Sveciae Modern Classics No. 10

"Von Koch’s affectionate attitude towards his music is reflected in the spontaneous brightly singing melodies. He really sings when he has something to say which he frequently has." Gösta Nystroem described Von Koch's Third Symphony in these terms in 1947.

Erland Von Koch's Nordiskt Capriccio is a rumbustious fantasy overture in which rhythmic interest and folklike melody redolent of the fresh outdoors adds up to a mercurial though none too reflective concert livener. It has counterparts in Copland's Outdoor Overture and, more closely, Moeran's Overture to a Masque. The music is familiar from the Swedish Society LP (SLT33136) of the Nystroem Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra. It was the comparatively slight filler on that album. It is good to hear it without the spalling and blemishes so familiar from my black disc version.

It prepares the ground for the Sinfonia Dalecarlica. After an angular first movement with an optimistic and aspirational Scandinavian melody comes a purposeful outdoors scherzo and a magical andante espressivo in which solo instruments call across the lonely landscape. Jan Lennart Höglund's notes refer to those quiet summonsings as herding calls. The finale has the pause and press-forward rapture of a Vaughan Williams folk-scherzo rather like one of the Norfolk Rhapsodies or Holst's Somerset Rhapsody. But this rum-ti-tum jollity is diluted by the aspiration and melancholia of the previous movements.

The Viola Concerto dates from 1946 and is more ambivalent in mood. It is the first of his numerous concertos. The others are for wind instruments (six), piano (three), and one each for guitar, cello, and one double (violin and piano - potentially a nice coupling for Martinů's masterly double for the same instruments.). The concerto is in three movements and despite disclaimers in the booklet notes (by Jan Lennart Höglund) the caste of the music is poignantly folk-pastoral. The music gravitates towards song and this is at its most evident in the Presto where at 4.40 a cantilena floats free from the insistent catch-as-catch-can chasse. An overlay coloured by triumph - resin and rosin - pervades the allegro non troppo finale celebrating play and work. This is not like Vaughan Williams but it will work alongside Flos Campi and the Suite and the Stanley Bate Viola Concerto. At 1.40 somewhat unnervingly there is a shadow of the finale of the Korngold Violin Concerto. This is music that has a glint in its eye and an eagerness that should carry it far.

Between 1945 and 1953 Von Koch turned out the music to sixty or more films. There are six by Ingmar Bergman in that list so keep your eyes open for the next Bergman season on your terrestrial, cable or satellite artfilm channel. Continuing the incidental music line the disc offers a three movement suite from Von Koch's music for the 1942 ballet Cinderella. Rather like Rosenberg's The Last Judgement Von Koch never got to see his ballet produced; Cinderella was cancelled due to the designer's bizarre ideas. The three movements include a jumpy Prokofiev-like march, a prize-winning Nocturne influenced by the gentlest wisps of ideas from Ravel and a crashingly confident Vals.

The disc is handsomely presented and documented and the picture is rounded out with a photograph of the composer staring out at dusk across the waters of Lake Siljan in 1946 - the year of the Viola Concerto.

The advocacy of everyone involved is convincing and full of conviction. I thought Johanna Persson's playing of the Viola Concerto especially strong..

Rob Barnett

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