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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Franz SYBERG (1904-55)
Sinfonietta (1935) [22.44]
Adagio for Strings (1938) [10.10]
Symphony (1939) [29.46]
Odense SO/Tamás Vetö
rec. Odense, 1990
KONTRAPUNKT 32088 [62.40]

Syberg was educated in Germany - mainly at Leipzig. His output is small in number and even so his short life was punctuated with long musical silences firstly between 1934 and 1938 and then from 1940 until his death of heart failure in 1955. The latter period coincided with his domestic commitments. He married in 1939 and supplemented his small income as an organist with fruit growing and bee keeping.

His music had dropped from sight until the Musikhøst90 in Odense in 1990 when a selection of major works were interspersed with those of the main celebrant, Poul Ruders. The press reception was excellent hence the present CD. Despite the references to Schoenberg, Hindemith and Stravinsky it is Nielsen who is to the fore; here - unmistakably so. Listen, for example, to the woodwind Elysium of the later stages of the Sinfonietta (an early work) at 21.30. He has surely learnt from Nielsen’s Helios Overture and the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. He is especially inventive with percussion as the closing pages witness. The stately, austere and probing Adagio for strings was written after his triumphant homecoming from the 1938 London ISCM. This is strongly though not academically contrapuntal and subdued with three themes interacting each with the other in a way that is no stranger to emotion - perhaps rather Bergian but certainly emotional (2.18). There is no Nielsen in this.

The three movement Symphony was written for a competition run by the Royal Orchestra of Denmark. Holmboe gained first prize with Syberg second. The Symphony was premiered on 19 January 1940 and was performed many times after this. Again Nielsen is not really an issue in this work except in the violin susurration at the end of the adagio molto. If anything this shows the hand of Hindemith perhaps from Mathis der Maler or Harmonie der Welt. The liner note writer claims the voice of Stravinsky as well but frankly I cannot detect it. The work was highly rated by Niels Viggo Bentzon who praised it above the symphonies of Nielsen. It is a positive piece full of optimism but not at all superficial. It rises to a superbly sanguine emphasis at 08.50 towards the end of the first movement. The finale has the jerky optimism of the jazzy finale of Walter Piston's Second Symphony. The work ends in a triumph of blaringly positive high spirits.

It is a pity again that the individual movements are not separately tracked rather than with index points.

The detailed and extensive notes are by Bertel Krarup.

You would do well to snap up this rare collection. Syberg is not a second Nielsen. He writes well in an idiom influenced by the great Carl but decisively coloured by the symphonic Hindemith.

Rob Barnett



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