What heart-warming music! Atterberg knew the alchemy
for melding his native folk music with the language of romantic-impressionism.
Of course he was not alone in this but his life-affirming music
remains insufficiently recognised.
A Värmland Rhapsody at first radiates a sense
of sun-warmed dawns, flecked with glinting silver-points of
sound. Precise and fragile folk material dances in woodland
clearings. At the midway point these dances are presented with
an exuberant muscularity. Even when the dancing rises to climactic
prominence it is counterpointed with yearning romantic ideas.
The Rhapsody was commissioned by Swedish Radio for the
75th birthday of the Nobel prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf
(1858-1940). Atterberg did the Concert Overture no favours
in its bloodlessly forgettable title. It is, however, another
smiling piece which recalls, in Swedish colours, Dvořák’s
Slavonic Dances and Scherzo Capriccioso. It ends
in the sort of brassy triumph we know from the Atterberg’s Eighth
Symphony - magnificent.
Atterberg wrote concertos for piano (1936), cello
(1917-27), french horn (1927) and violin. There is also a Double
Concerto (violin and cello) from 1960. The present Violin Concerto
is the first of the line and appeared between the second (1912)
and third (1916) symphonies. It is the work of a convinced and
convincing romantic with a beguilingly lyrical talent. While
evidently requiring a virtuoso soloist it is no vapid display
piece. Put it in a similar stylistic category to the Sibelius
which it occasionally echoes. Also bear in mind its relationship
with works such as the Bruch (the famous one!), the Elgar and
even - looking forward in time - the Korngold. The aristocratically
satisfying melody sung by the soloist at 4:20 in the finale
is memorable but this is a movement where the pages out-spin
the invention; not by much but towards the close the threads
begin to show through. All is redeemed by the hushed finale.
CPO have released this CD on the heels of their
world premiere recording of the Symphony for Strings.
I hope they have the stamina to tackle the Three Interludes
from the opera Fanal (magnificent), also the Double
Concerto and we badly need an intégrale of the eight orchestral
suites too. When that is done the operas remain compelling desiderata.
How about Fanal (1934), Aladdin (1941) and Stormen
(1947) for starters. Have any had opera house productions
in recent years, I wonder?
Alternative purchases? No other disc has the same
coupling. At full price you can go for a seriously substantial
pairing of the concertos for violin and for piano. It’s on the
redoubtable Sterling label and is still excellent in every respect
A Värmland Rhapsody has been done before by
Jun’ichi Hirokami with the Norrkoping orchestra on Bis. They
include the Sixth Symphony in a very good modern performance
to compare with Rasilainen’s on CPO.
Yet more irresistible Atterberg. My recommendation
is irrelevant if you have already caught the bug. If the music
is still unfamiliar to you let me commend it. You will need