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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Hilding ROSENBERG (1892-1985)
Prelude to The Last Judgement Op. 48 (1929) [7.59]
Orpheus in Town Op. 75 (1938) [60.10]
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Petter Sundkvist (prelude)
Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/B. Tommy Andersson
rec. Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, 18 Aug 1998 (prelude); Stockholm Concert Hall, 17 May 1995. DDD
Musica Sveciae Modern Classics No. 2
PHONO SUECIA PSCD 702 [62.31]

Swedish ballet music is not exactly a famous field. Alfvén's Bergakungen (Mountain King) is an exception - a late romantic nationalist score. This was premiered in 1923 in Stockholm. More modernistic scores followed including the Parisian Maison de fous by Viking Dahl. Pergament's Krelantems and Eldeling came in 1928 apparently sporting 'an unusually advanced tonal language'. Rosenberg's full-scale ballet Yttersta domen (The Last Judgement) dates from 1929. In the 1950s there were Blomdahl's classical-themed Sisyfos and Minotaurus as well as Lidholm's Riter.

The main focus of this disc is the complete ballet score for Orpheus in Town. But before we get to that there is the doom-laden Prelude to the ballet The Last Judgement. This was fashioned around Erik Axel Karlfeldt's cycle of paintings. For one reason or another the ballet was never produced and the music became known through an orchestral suite. The fate-heavy first section of the prelude gives way to a quick polacca.

This disc carries the world premiere recording of Orpheus in Town, the complete ballet from 1938. The plot is around the idea of Orpheus going in search of Eurydice during long summer nights in the streets of Stockholm. It was premiered in Stockholm on 19 November 1938.

The grouped statues forming the fountain at the front of the opera-house are depicted on stage. They come to life and go to a department store for clothes to cover their nakedness. Orpheus thinks he has found Eurydice when he chances on a performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at the Opera. He finds her in a dance-hall but she will not return with him to become a statue again in the fountain group in front of the Opera.

The ballet had some twenty performances at the Stockholm Opera in its original run. The Dance Suite from the nightclub dance-hall episode of this work is the one we know from previous recordings. This can be heard separately if you programme your player to hear tracks 19 to 25 in sequence.

The Dance is a very sentimental thing with a shade of the Presentation of the Rose recurrent in the andantino at tr. 10 (Pa Karleksudden in which the aria theme from Gluck's Orfeo emerges in refined lovely melancholy). You can hear more from the opera at tr. 17 and the music is tempestuously transformed in tr. 18.

In scene 2 (tr.4) the awakening of the statues is represented in antique finery - with Baroque style aped and manipulated. A folk-dance rondo comes in the shape of a tarantella (tr. 8). The Gluck melody returns with poignant placid directness at tr. 11 - Fredrika Bremerstatyn. Strange voices recur in this music including the Red Indian humour of the Intermezzo II (tr. 16).

Then we come to the Dance Suite. Rhythm of the Times (tr. 19) is part Weill, part Constant Lambert and part Ibert. The Bartender's Dance with its wah-wah saxophone and strangulated strings again touches on the vitriol of Weill. The Girl's Dance is liquid jazz with a spare mix from Petrushka. The Negress Dance is sultry and Rimskian (tr.24). The Tango for Orpheus and The Lady is played through a Ravel-like casement - Hispanic and close to Rapsodie Espagnole. The fun is spoilt by the arrival of the lady's stout admirer.

 

Orpheus in Town is a strange mixture. It is Gallic in the manner of Ibert and Satie yet sentimental in the delicate manner of Ravel. The variations wrung out of the famous aria from Orfeo ed Euridice are one of the key pillars of the work and much is inventively made of it. The music is a strange amalgam of the poignant, the frivolous, the jazzy and the emotive. A stimulating and kaleidoscopically varied work superbly presented.

Rob Barnett



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