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Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884-1947)
Suite No. 1
for Violin and Piano (1912)
Capriccio amoroso, for Violin and Piano (1936)
Poem, for Violin and Piano (1942)
Mälarlegender, Three Legends for Piano
Arioso, for violin and Piano
Tre dansminiatyrer, Three Dance Miniatures for Two Violins
Ein Nachtstück (Nocturne in E. T. A. Hoffman Style) for Two Violins, Viola and Violoncello (1909)
Improvisata for Piano
Suite No. 2, for Violin and Piano
Mats Jansson (piano) Tale Olsson (violin)
Holmen Quartet
Recorded November 1998, Studio 3, Stockholm and February 1998, De Geer Hallen, Norrköping
CPO 999 689-2 DDD [75:25]
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It is a sign of the esteem in which Ture Rangström was held by the people of his native Sweden that in celebration of his fiftieth birthday, a national fund resulted in him being given the island of Törnsholmen off the south-east coast of the country. It was here that he was to spend the last ten summers or so of his life writing. His public profile must indeed have been high by this time for in addition to his compositional activities he enjoyed a period as principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and was also well known as a critic, working for several Stockholm newspapers.

Rangström's music as presented here, is marked by an economy, even at times sparseness of means, his reputation in the early 1900s when he came to prominence, being that of an outright modernist. In reality this is a rather extreme perception of his compositional language although he was not averse to the use of gentle dissonance when it suited and the formal construction of his music could often be unconventional in its episodic, collage-like style.

The two most substantial works on this disc impress in different ways. Rangström's only String Quartet, Ein Nachtstück, was written in response to a suggestion by Carl Nielsen, its thirteen minute duration taking the form of a single movement which is entirely based around the clearly Nordic sounding theme heard at the outset. The rhapsodic variations and fugue that follow encompass a gamut of emotions and styles yet are skilfully woven into an impressively cohesive and satisfying whole. The excellent performance given here by the Holmen Quartet is both stylistically characteristic and highly committed. The Three Legends for Piano, Mälarlegender, inhabit a different world, forming incidental music to an epic poem which tells the tale of an organist who sailed to Stockholm on one of the boats of Lake Mälaren to collect a new piano. Nocturne, the first movement, atmospherically captures the motion of the boat as it glides through the water on a clear Midsummer Eve whilst the joyous central movement depicts brightly coloured stalls at the Spring Fair. The final movement is a tranquil pastoral, "high summer calm in air and greenery, on the water and on the ground". Once again the performance is sympathetic, the delicate outer movements being particularly affecting.

The remaining works are mainly short, though attractive miniatures. I was particularly struck by the hauntingly beautiful Arioso for violin and piano which under its original title of The Phantom's Arioso, formed part of Rangström's incidental music for Shakespeare's Hamlet (one of many plays by the Bard for which he provided scores). Its achingly poignant yet simple melody and accompaniment are one of the real highlights of the disc. Rangström experimented with old forms on numerous occasions and the two baroque modelled Suites for violin and piano (sub-titled In antique style and In baroque style respectively) make for enjoyable, undemanding listening. The Improvisata for piano is particularly characteristic of Rangström's mature style in its use of contrasting episodic like paragraphs.

There is much to enjoy on this disc, the performances both committed and fresh, the recorded sound natural and with admirable clarity. Well worth a try for aficionados and newcomers alike.

Christopher Thomas

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