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Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER (1867-1942)
Frösöblomster Bok I - Ǻtta melodier för piano (1896)
Frösöblomster Bok II – Sex melodier för piano (1900)
Frösöblomster Bok III – I sommerhagen – Humoresker och idyller för piano (1914)
Olof Höjer (piano)
Recorded College of Music, Malmö 1990
SWEDISH SOCIETY DISCOFIL SCD 1097 [72.41]



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Everything you’ve ever heard about Peterson-Berger’s piano music – if you’ve ever heard anything about it – is true. Whereas the symphonies, though attractive, want for real symphonic profile, in his piano miniatures the sheer untrammelled romantic lyricism that so saturates his music emerges unmediated by striving or grandiloquence. This is a disc of pastoral bedecked pleasures, its open-hearted effulgence occasionally joined by moments of unease and incipient tristesse. But, mostly, all is well and the earliest of the Books, written in 1896, catches him at his freshest and most winning. Peterson-Berger was twenty-nine when the first Book was published and, dangerously, a music critic.

Opening warmly, the first book embraces late Romantic lyricism and Grieg-influenced subtleties of infection – harmonic and otherwise – and Chopinesque directness (try the fourth in the first book Till rosorna and you’ll be puzzling who could have written it) as well as an avuncular little gavotte and the limpid nobility and concentrated grandeur of the sixth. Cleverly Peterson-Berger rounds off the first cycle of miniatures with an affable but somewhat sad Hälsning that seems pretty clearly related to the opening piece and adduces another, deeper level of meaning to the work. The second book followed four years later and is comprised of six miniatures, again starting with a confident opener, and stresses the hymnal and meditative air with increasing regularity. There’s forest music as well with elfin folk music trio sections and real elastic pliancy in the last two of the set. The Third Book (1914) was inspired by a house he had built which he called Sommerhagen. As the pianist hammers away we become aware that Peterson-Berger is actually depicting the nailing and hammering of his sommerhagen and the Förspel takes on something of a riotous air. But he can’t escape pianistic nobility of utterance for long and his Schumannesque-Grieg inheritance is most explicit in the second of the set. There’s colour, emphasised through depth of bass tone, and also witty and amusing folk dances and, as the Book comes to a close, a quiet calm, a heat haze stasis.

Really fine performances by Olof Höjer are happily complemented by his own sleeve notes and the natural perspective – warm, not cloying – of the recording. Not to be taken in one go, maybe, but a book at a time. There’s much here that is treasurable.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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