Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

John FERNSTRÖM (1897-1961)
Symphonic Prologue
Symphony No. 6 (1939)
Initimate Miniatures for string orchestra (1925)
Malmö SO/Cecilia Rydinger Alin
Musica Vitae/Wojciech Rajski
rec Malmö/Furuby 1989 1997
BIS-CD-903 [60.00]

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Fernström while not on current evidence in the front or even second front rank of Scandinavian composers was a gifted creator. He is less the outright romantic and more of the objective.

His Symphonic Prologue inhabits an uncertain world which lies between Hindemith and Weill. Rhythmic content can be aggressive and not for the last time did I notice a tribute (intended?) to the wild dance of Beethoven 7. From his earliest years when success for each new work seemed de rigueur in his native Sweden come two symphonies, a violin concerto and the present Intimate Miniatures. This work of regret and courtly charm is much closer to the romantic ideals of Rakastava and Grieg's Holberg Suite and Last Spring.

The Sixth Symphony of twelve (in fact No. 1, from the 1920s, was destroyed) was much acclaimed at its 1941 premiere in Malmo. Atterberg, Wirén and Moses Pergament all sang its praises and Atterberg demanded a second performance which only came in 1950. We must not expect Nordic romanticism. Instead the style is keyed into the continental strain of Nielsen with a dash of Weill (think in terms of the two symphonies) and the blunt protest of Beethoven. Both the scherzo and the finale have some very catchy invention but this is also a work of melancholy, of resolution and of cataclysmic overhang. Finlandia brass 'barks' at the start of the finale are memorable.

BIS's usual excellent recording and useful notes from Stig Jacobsson. Both this and the other BIS Fernström disc have covers adorned with water colours by Fernström.

Rob Barnett


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