> Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER - Symphony No. 4 [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER (1867 - 1942)
Symphony No. 4 in A Major "Holmia" (1929)
Tornrossagan (1934)
Frösöblömster (1898)
Nörrkoping Symphony Orchestra/Michail Jurowski
co-production between CPO / Swedish Broadcating Corporation
recorded 31/5 - 4/6 1999 in De Geer Hall, Nörrkoping. DDD
CPO 999 662-2 [65'55'']


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Wilhelm Peterson-Berger was a minor Swedish symphonist. Most of his output was song based and, as a songwriter, he is well known throughout Scandinavia. He wrote five symphonies and these are being systematically recorded for us by CPO and Swedish Radio.

The current disc, a recording of the 4th Symphony, sub-titled "Holmia" was Peterson-Berger’s penultimate symphony (the fifth would follow in a further four years). Here on this CPO release it has just about as good a performance as it could have, with the Nörrkoping orchestra under Michel Jurowski supplying a bright, forthright performance, accurately phrased and played in a splendid, alive recording.

The major problem I have experienced with this disc is nothing to do with the performance, recording or presentation of these works – they are all first rate. No, it is more to do with the musical inspiration of the composer himself, which appears to me to be on an extremely low level. It is not that I think I could do better, far from it, but after having played the disc many times over the last few weeks, I find that it has registered very little impact on me. This is probably down to me, but I feel I must warn potential purchasers that they might be similarly affected by the these works.

Having stated my reservations, I have nothing but praise for CPO in making these less than well known symphonies available to us to expand our knowledge of them. We would be much the poorer without them.

Fans of early twentieth century conservative Scandinavian symphonies will be well pleased with these recordings.

The Fourth Symphony is written in three relatively short movements, the middle one doubling as a slow movement and scherzo combined. All three movements are lightweight and tuneful, and played with sensitivity by the performers. The scherzo (placed in the middle of the slow movement) is quite pleasant, and gives the orchestra an opportunity to display their collective virtuosity. There is not much evidence of organic growth throughout the symphony, but if this does not bother you you will enjoy this.

The disc is completed by two Suites for orchestra, one early work (Frösöblömster) a work which describes The Flowers of Froso. It was written as a solo for piano and subsequently orchestrated in 1934. As a piano work, it ensured that the young composer made a lasting impression on the musical establishment, and in terms of lyricism, it is somewhat ahead of the symphony.

The disc is completed by (Tornrossagan), another work written earlier (in 1903) as a ballet, and reorganised into an orchestral suite in 1934. Again, much better than the symphony, mainly because it suits the composer’s abilities better. The disc is almost redeemed by these two orchestral works, and I enjoyed them much more than the symphony.

As usual with these issues from CPO – superb documentation – well done CPO.

John Phillips

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