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.