This collaboration between BIS and Brilliant breathes new market
life into a major Scandinavian symphonic cycle.
At the heart of this set lie five extremely substantial symphonies.
Alfven’s first three are from the prolific decade: 1897-1907.
The gloriously Straussian and oceanic Fourth dates from just
after the end of the Great War. The Fifth, with which he struggled
for many years was under work from 1942 onwards.
The First Symphony is serious, gangling, romantic, Lisztian and
nationalistic while the Second Symphony is a sea-inspired work.
The breadth of the sea-swell in the Stockholm Archipelago is
suggested by the andante
. Alfvén lifts his material
with a piercing angst. The Third Symphony is more succinct. It
was written in Italy at Sori Ligure. The first movement carries
the spirit of the rhapsodies. This is a work full of high spirits
and light. The Fourth Symphony was premiered at the Royal Academy
Stockholm on 4 November 1919. It is luxuriant and over-long but
has a memorable profile. It was an imaginative stroke to use
two vocalising voices prominently amid the orchestral ‘wash’.
This opulent score opens magically. This is rewarding music racked
with the turbulence of the waves. It has previously been recorded
on Bluebell ABCD by Westerberg with Söderström and
there is also a long gone Swedish Society Discofil LP in which
Nils Grevillius directs the Stockholm Philharmonic. This is the
only complete commercial recording of the Fifth Symphony. It
seems to have cost Alfvén dear for he struggled to complete
it from 1942 until 1960 the year of his death. About the same
length as the Fourth, the Fifth is serious - lacking anything
of the light theatre about it.
Legend of the Skerries
is a mood picture in sound with
a shimmering and gurgling atmosphere. The suite from Prodigal
had its premiere to mark the composer's 85th birthday.
As with the Third Symphony the spirit is lighter and rustic with
closer parallels to the rhapsodies than to most of the symphonies.
Country dancing and the polka play a major part in the proceedings.
suite is more dramatic. There are three
Swedish Rhapsodies by Alfvén with the most famous being
the first the Midsommarvaka
. The Uppsalarasodi
a rather Brahmsian gravitas but with nationalistic infusions.
The Third Rhapsody is the Dalarapsodi
from 1931. The 1908 Drapa
through harp and fanfares the court of King Oscar II. A glowing
romantic-melancholia for strings rises to heights of considerable
grandeur. The Andante Religioso
again draws on Alfvén's
facility for string themes. It has a strong Scandinavian wistfulness
woven into its radiant progress. The final CD ends with the trembling
yet restful Elegy
from Gustav II Adolf.
If by any chance you have come to regard Järvi as a deliverer
of routine recordings in massed quantity let this set be a lesson
to you. When these recordings were made there was not a single
one of them where he lets the tension or imagination slip from
A great bargain for the enquiring music-lover.