Atterberg’s Piano Concerto begins like Grieg’s,
thus setting the pattern for an expansively melodic and noble, heroic
work in the grand Late Romantic tradition. There are sideways glances
at Tchaikovsky and, in the more introspective and melancholic passages,
Rachmaninov is often recalled in the orchestra’s Romantic opulence with
the piano intoning bell-like figures in counterpoint. That is not to
say that the voice of Atterberg is subjugated; on the contrary his individuality
is strong, through the sort of assertive treatment of Nordic material
familiar from the symphonies. The Andante begins in hushed stillness
in the strings, the momentum picking up slowly with the piano quietly
pensive – the bell-like tones are revisited - until a passionate climax
is reached with piano and orchestra returning to Rachmaninov territory.
The finale, marked Furioso, is the least successful of the three movements.
It is a peculiar, uncomfortable mix of galumphing folk material, odd
syncopation and jazz inflections, and some self-conscious romance with
Rachmaninov waiting for the grand final peroration.
The Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra is
Atterberg’s Op 1 and it shows. That is not to say that it does have
charm or fails to grip. It passes through many moods from the grand
heroic through dark introspection to carefree high spirits taking in
some very oddly accented rhythms, while influences fluctuate between
the Nordic and the hot heady Oriental – typified by Rimsky-Korsakov.
An interesting oddity.
More assured is the Ballad and Passacaglia,
subtitled "On a Theme in the Swedish Folk Tone." which was
once quite popular. It was premiered in Stockholm, in 1937, by Eugene
Ormandy. It is something of a short symphony in structure. The opening
movement has plenty of bravado and one is reminded of the storm movement
of Atterberg’s Symphony No. 3 "West Coast Pictures". A lovely
lyrical episode follows as a ‘slow movement’; the cheeky scherzo section
is extraordinary, it sounds like a clog dance while the concluding section
brings the work to end in Brahmsian solemnity.
A feast for unashamed romantics. Grand Romantic, heart-on-sleeve
stuff, over the top music, delivered in bravura performances by Derwinger
and Rasilainen. Another winner in this splendid cpo Atterberg edition.