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Kurt ATTERBERG (1887-1974)
Barocco, Suite No. 5 for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 23 (1923) [16:37]
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, Op. 57 (1960) [18:48]
Sinfonia per archi Op. 53 (1951-53/1955) [30:13]
Amus Kerstin Andersson (violin)
Mats Levin (cello)
Írebro Chamber Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
rec. 1995, Írebro Concert Hall
DANACORD DACOCD836 [65:47]

The three works span nearly four decades of Atterberg’s compositional life and reflect three different elements of it; the concerto, the orchestra suite, and the sinfonia for strings. The performances date back to 1995.

The 1960 Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra is a disc premiere and probably the greatest lure for the Atterberg devotee. If you can imagine the polar opposite of the Brahms Concerto – edgy, confrontational, massive in effect, emotionally unstable and complex – then the Atterberg Double might fit the bill nicely. This is not a work that seeks to reconcile two astringent and wary soloists, it’s rather a work of warmth infused by folkloric elements, in which the soloists are etched into the orchestral fabric. It’s not a large-scale piece and offers a consonant and collegiate relationship between soloists and orchestra, with slow sections characterised by daring stillness, sublimated lyricism, and that touching element of folk influence that’s used with unselfconsciousness by Atterberg. Faster sections are buttressed by orchestral pizzicati and there’s one especially lovely scene, from bar 342 – Danacord tracks it by bars – that offers a moment of shimmering Delian gauze, with the soloists in pretty much full-time employment (though I’d hesitate to draw any direct analogy with Delius’ own Double Concerto which is altogether more overtly rhapsodic). There is a chamber music quality to much of the writing, which is unshowy, generous and charming.

Barocco is his Suite No.5 for chamber orchestra composed in 1923 as incidental music to Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. As the name suggest the six movements bear dance movement inscriptions. It’s a neo-baroque affair and might perhaps remind some listeners of Warlock’s Capriol Suite – which was, in point of fact, written a few years later. Each movement is neatly characterised, whether firm of foot, or full of pathos or genial. The pick of the bunch is the Siciliana, a truly lovely example of Atterberg’s art in extreme miniature.

The Sinfonia for strings is light music at its near-best dating from the 1950s. In four movements it’s alternately vibrant and full of tensile scherzo brilliance, beautiful rich textures, rollicking ebullience and an epilogue with a sunset glow of gorgeous regret.

Stig Jacobsson’s newly penned notes set the scene very well. The performances are raptly supportive of the works, thoroughly stylish and refined. Amus Kerstin Andersson and Mats Levin play with selfless devotion and Thord Svedlund directs with great sensitivity. If the recording is a bit too close and thereby inflates the chamber orchestral forces, so be it. It hardly matters.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: John France



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