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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Hilding ROSENBERG (1892-1985)
Dance Suite from Orpheus in Town (1938) [14.10]
Symphony No. 3 (1939 rev 1952) [34.44]
Concerto No. 3 Louisville (1954 rev 1968) [24.23]
Royal Stockholm PO/Sir Andrew Davis
rec. Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, 7-8 Dec 1998 (symphony); 12-13 Feb 1999 (Orpheus, Louisville). DDD
FINLANDIA 3984 29719 2 [73.52]
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The music of Swedish composer Hilding Rosenberg has managed to elude the embrace of record companies interested in a complete edition. While Tubin, Saeverud, Langgaard, Kokkonen and Sallinen have basked in fairly thorough surveys Rosenberg has remained stubbornly pinioned in the shadows. Of course he has had his champions. Sixten Ehrling (Caprice) and Antal Dorati (Schwann LP) recorded his apocalyptic Fourth Symphony and Herbert Blomstedt conducts the Third and Stig Westerberg the Sixth on a single superb Phono-Suecia CD. The twelve string quartets are on Caprice. With this background the present Finlandia CD deserves a song of praise; all the more so since it seems to have slipped without notice into the catalogues and is likely to leave just as reticently.

Orpheus in Town represents a catchy brew in seven movements. The music is sturdy with numerous cross-references: Petrushka, Weill, Bolero, Jazzy Lambertianisms, Tango, Copland and the Habanera. This is clean, wild and woolly music - very much of the metropolis rather than the Nordic wilderness: Bernstein rather than Sibelius. The Symphony (one of eight of which a BIS cycle is rumoured) precedes the deeply impressive Fourth. It shares some of the Fourth's humanity and emotional flesh. This is an impressive performance in which the Stockholm violins glow by comparison with the hollow dazzle of the Orpheus sessions. The Symphony traces its outline from the Romain Rolland novel 'Jean Christophe' - the 'Four Ages of Man'. It began life with that title. While Jaakko Haapaniemi's note mention the use of dodecaphonic techniques these obtrude hardly at all. The work inhabits a region straddling Hindemith's Nobilissima Visione and Harmonie der Welt, Weill's symphonies, Sibelius and Copland in open air modes. It is memorable for the music-box intimacy of the melody in the first movement and the roaringly joyous climactic use of a horn song that swings high, wide and confident in the finale. Not to be missed. The Louisville Concerto is the third such work for orchestra by Rosenberg (the first two are from 1946 and 1949). It owes its title to the fact that, using Rockefeller Foundation cash, the Kentucky orchestra under its conductor Robert Whitney commissioned the work from Rosenberg. It is a work of bustling business rather than yielding emotion. The rasping horn fanfare (based on a Lappish yoik) that opens Allegro energico finale exuberantly harks back to the stamp and thud of parts the Third and Sixth symphonies.

This is a worthwhile collection which has received little promotion outside Sweden. Rather dour - Rosenberg is a composer whose music should appeal to those who like Copland, Hindemith and Piston. His Fourth Symphony is a masterwork; the Third is in much the same tonal language.

Rob Barnett

From the Bulletin Board

I was really pleased to see a review of this CD. Rob Barnett is quite right to suggest that this release slipped into the catalogues almost unnoticed. Infact, I have had the CD for over a year and have never seen it reviewed before Rob's sympathetic notice. I agree that Rosenberg has been rather left out in the cold despite a few interesting releases (such as the fine Phono Suecia coupling of symphonies 3 and 6).
Rosenberg's Third is a fine, powerfully moving work. Apart from those composers mentioned in Rob's review, I think that there are similarities with Edward Rubbra's music, especially Rubbra's Fifth Symphony which, like Rosenberg's Third does, to me at least, convey something of the beauty of nature. Both the Rubbra and the Rosenberg end with powerfully redemptive and spiritually uplifting codas.
I hope that, sooner or later, Rosenberg's Second Symphony is reissued on CD, it also has a marvellously uplifting conclusion and I would agree with those (Robert Layton I think) who say that Rosenberg has something of the Old Testament prophet about him.
Apart from the CDs mentioned in the review, Rosenberg admirers might like to know that it is now possible to get hold again of a fascinating Caprice box set of "Rosenberg conducts Rosenberg", highlights of which include the only available recording of Rosenberg's Symphony no.5 (considered by some to be his masterpiece) as well as the only recording of the original version of Symphony no.3 (containing the vocal sections between movements narrated by Rosenberg himself) and some fascinating extracts from the Fourth Symphony "The Revelation of St.John".
The box set seems to have come down in price and comes with a 116 page booklet which adds to the attraction of the issue. The number of the set is CAP 21510. It's a pity that, following his magnificent new version of Symphony no.3, Andrew Davis can't go on to record a complete cycle of the Rosenberg Symphonies.

Jeffrey Davis


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