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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER (1867-1942)
Symphony No. 5 in B minor Solitudo (1932-33) [28:36]
Violin Concerto in F sharp minor (1928) [34:12]
Ulf Wallin (violin)
Norrköping SO/Michail Jurowski
rec. 25-26 April 2003, De Geer Hall, Norrköping
CPO 999 984-2 [62:48]

 

Swedish composer, Peterson-Berger wrote orchestral music that is warm and lyrical permeated with the spirit of Swedish folksong.

That statement is certainly true of this the second ever complete recording of the Fifth Symphony. The first, conducted by Segerstam, was released in 1997 by Bo Hyttner's Sterling label (CDS-1006-2) where the even more generous coupling is the world premiere recording of the First Symphony. After a graciously stop-start little scherzando comes an oboe-ushered andante tranquillo reminiscent of George Butterworth's Banks of Green Willow. It soon develops a Graingerian harmonium tone. The finale is sparklingly rumbustious with folk dance woven around alternating jollity and exciting heroism. The piece ends in a series of silver-dripping bardic harp arpeggios. On balance I prefer Jurowski for his greater vitality; his first movement is five minutes shorter than Segerstam’s. Mind you the tempo indication is con moto tranquillo. The CPO recording is also a shade less transparent than Sterling’s.

The Violin Concerto was completed five years earlier having been started in 1912. Nilla Pierrou recorded it in October 1967. In fact the Pierrou recording is still the only alternative to this new Wallin version. Pierrou is on Phono-Suecia ECHO PSCD 95 (previously released on Swedish HMV LP CSDS 1083) and is coupled with the best of the Peterson-Berger symphonies No. 2 Sunnanfärd (Journey to the South). The concerto has that searching and singing soul we may associate with the Violin Concertos by Delius, Glazunov, Dvořák, sometimes Elgar and, surprisingly often, Bax. A stamping thudding gusto (Dies Irae from Verdi Requiem) forms the backdrop to the opening pages of the finale over which the violin sings - at first peacefully. It then develops a more animated chattering and darting spirit which sounds slightly Chinese (probably influenced by Turandot). In the Pierrou version the soloist is recorded very closely - you won’t miss a detail but dynamic contrast is rather ironed out. That old analogue version has lots of impact and a real grip on your lapels but the orchestra on occasion slips backwards into a generalised focus. Top marks to Phono-Suecia for virile immediacy less so for poetic distance. The CPO recording is projects a string refined audio image.

This is part of CPO's admirable project to record the complete Peterson-Berger symphonies. This instalment represents a resoundingly successful chapter in that process.

Rob Barnett



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