Two Bengtsson concertos:
a violin concerto and a cello concerto
and a novel idea - having the violinist
conduct the Cello Concerto accompaniment
and vice versa. And what delightful
works these are, so wonderfully melodic.
It is incredible that these warm-hearted
works, cast in the Late Romantic tradition,
are not better known and have not been
recorded until now. Once again, the
music world is indebted to Bo Hyttner
and his enterprising Sterling label
for introducing us to such appealing
works under the label’s Swedish Romantics
Concerto is unmistakeably Nordic
in character and quite pictorial. The
opening movement spans nearly eighteen
minutes commencing with a strongly rhythmic
theme that has tripping/marching figures.
This imposing material is counterbalanced
by a ravishingly beautiful theme that
is reminiscent of Max Bruch in its romantic
intensity. Tobias Ringborg is both assertive
in the more extrovert passages and poetic
in the more tender filigree writing.
The second movement is hauntingly plaintive
and nostalgic, rising to an impassioned
climax; Grieg’s influence is discernible
and Delius’s shadow in the wings. The
finale, marked Rondo brillante, Allegro
moderato energico has a Spanish,
colouring and gypsy fireworks (and a
touch of Saint-Saëns as well as
de Falla), showing off Ringborg’s virtuosity.
Autumnal, nostalgic melody opposes this
energetic outpouring and the work rises
to a warm but powerful climax.
The Cello Concerto
begins eerily as though the music
is influenced by Nordic mythology (trolls
etc). The cello muses, argues against
such strange figures, the orchestra
defiantly answering until the mood lightens
and suddenly another haunting, heart-on-sleeve
melody arrives developed by both soloist
and orchestra; you can imagine Max Steiner
writing it for Bette Davis. Drama and
romance alternate through the movement.
The beautiful, elegiac Andante slow
movement, eloquently read by Rondin,
was highly regarded and sometimes performed
separately. It has a quiet prayer-like
quality. The rhythmically interesting
finale has an out-of-doors freshness
and vivacity and glowing nostalgic material.
Gustaf Bengtsson was
born in Vadstena, Sweden. He studied
organ and counterpoint and composition
at Stockholm Conservatory; and in 1907,
Conrad Nordqvist offered him a position
as violinist with the Royal Opera Orchestra.
His début as composer came in
1912 when the Royal Opera Orchestra
gave a symphony concert introducing
new works by three young Swedish composers
all of them making their débuts:
Kurt Atterberg, Oskar Lindberg and Gustaf
Bengtsson. But soon Bengtsson was to
move away from Stockholm to provincial
towns of Karlstad and Linköping.in
the south-west. Here he would compose
most of his music and his absence from
the capital might explain his comparative
Sterling have already
issued another Bengtsson collection
that includes the composer’s best known
work, a suite called I Vadstena klosta
(In Vadstena convent) the First Symphony
and the symphonic poem, Vettern.
Why have these lovely
melodic concertos been so ignored? Every
soloist should be considering them.
I urge you to hear them.