> PERGAMENT Violin sonata, quartet 1 PSCD711 [RB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Moses PERGAMENT (1893-1977)
Violin Sonata (1918-20) [30.25]
String Quartet No. 1 (1918-22) [37.20]
Nils-Erik Sparf (violin)
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
rec Studio 2, Radiohuset, 15-16 Nov 2000 (sonata); 17-19 Aug 2000 (quartet)


Pergament is written up in Phono-Suecia's notes as a modernist and as a focus for Nordic and Jewish musical legacies - the latter only suggested in the final movement of the quartet and then only in the most general terms. The 'modernist' tag raised expectations of dodecaphonic somersaults. Not a bit of it ... at least not in these two pieces. If anything Pergament's mode of speech is centred on the luminous Gallic ecstasy of people like Lekeu, Howells (as in the Piano Quartet and early violin sonatas), Ireland, Dunhill, Cras, Vierne and Max d'Ollone. French influences are not unheard of among Scandinavian's - Uuno Klami was somewhat undermined by the French influence (as in his Second Piano Concerto Nuit à Montmartre) and Gösta Nystroem's Viola Concerto is titled Hommage à la France. The notes tell us that Pergament invited Nystroem to come to Paris and that soon after they were joined by Hilding Rosenberg (whose symphonies are to be recorded complete by Bis).

Pergament makes succulent hay with the language. It is not all ecstatic sunrises and grass crested collines. The scherzo is touched with a macabre wand but it is the macabre of Ravel as in Skarbo. There is no hint of Sibelius in this nor of the dissonances employed by contemporaries such as Kallstenius. Forsberg, a pianist of the first order, is excellent both in the stone-hewn declamatory material of the ten minute finale and in the silverpoints of the first two movements. Sparf has a slender and shapely tone and he is alive to the 'dark dancer' elements. He reminds me somewhat of the approach I have heard applied successfully to broadly similar works such as the Bax, Ireland and Dunhill second violin sonatas.

Pergament was Finnish-born, German-educated and Sweden-resident and in 1919 took Swedish citizenship. He idolised Sibelius and Wagner. While the latter took Teuton mythopoeia as his quarry for plot and ambience Pergament turned to the Bible. His works include Kelantems and Eldeling (1920-27), the choral symphony The Jewish Song (1944), the oratorio The Seven Deadly Sins (1949) and an as yet unperformed symbolist opera Abram's Erwachen (1966-73).

The String Quartet poses a greater challenge bristling with a profusion of melodic lines and dense with activity. It is comparable to the richness of the string quartets of Bernard van Dieren, John Foulds (especially the masterly Intimo on Pearl) and Karl Weigl (whose gemütlich Viennese coffee-house manner is evoked in the folk song variations of the second movement), the orchestral writing of Joseph Marx and the instumental writing of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji. Pergament has taken an imprint from Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht also. The quartet is intriguing and has many coups of the imagination but it does not have the concentration and inevitability of the sonata.

Another horizon-broadening lesson for this listener and the disc is highly recommendable to those who are attracted by the litany of names I have mentioned.

Rob Barnett


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