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Anton Edvard PRATTÉ (1796-1875)
Grand Concert in G minor (ca 1853/60) [42:58]
Theme and Variations on a Swedish Folk Tune (?1818) [12:46]
Souvenir de Norvège: Fra Fjelle og Dale (ca. 1849/53) [16:55]
Delphine Constantin-Reznik (harp)
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Daniela Musca (Concert)
rec. 20-24 August 2020, Louis de Geer Concert Hall, Norrköping, Sweden.
BIS BIS-2570 SACD [73:35]

The name Anton Edvard Pratté is a new one to me as I suspect it will be for most of us. He was a composer and distinguished harp virtuoso whose career spanned almost his entire life. A native of Haida in Bohemia, his family toured with a popular puppet theatre, ending up in Sweden as the result of European turmoil during the Napoleonic wars. There is a good deal of detail on his life and career in the booklet for this release, but among other achievements Pratté was elected into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1850, and he died in the village of Ledberg not far north of Norrköping where he had been a conductor of the Orchestra Society, precursor of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, for a brief period.

Pratté was a touring musician, and none of his music was published in his lifetime, making the provision of accurate dates for each piece a difficult prospect. He carried his music with him in manuscript form ready to be performed anywhere, any time, and this also goes for the Grand Concert in G minor. This is a large-scale work in fairly typical mid-19th century style, but filled with distinctive moments and a dramatic inner life that makes the lengthy first movement Allegro con spirito into something almost operatic at times. The harp writing is virtuosic as you might expect, and there is a lengthy cadenza about two thirds into this movement as well as numerous solo passages. The thematic material for the orchestra is also full of character however, blending Beethovenian seriousness with nice melodic shaping and of course complementing those magical timbres from the soloist. The central movement is a Romanza with plenty of poetic tenderness and some touches of minor-key sturm und drang to contrast with the lyrical charm. The final movement is a rondo with a folk-music atmosphere, being a rousing Polacca à la Svedse no doubt tailored to please local audiences.

National flavour continues in the Theme and Variations on a Swedish Folk Tune, which takes its theme from a nursery rhyme ‘The Cat and the Kitten’ which is ideal for variation treatment, having a similar character to the famous La Follia. This was one of the pieces that founded Pratté’s reputation in Sweden, and from 1818, the date of its first known performance at a concert in Uppsala University, he was much in demand both in Sweden and abroad. The Souvenir de Norvège was aimed at audiences for Pratté’s visits to Norway and it uses a number of Norwegian folk songs, proving highly popular and known to be one of the composer’s own favourites, performing it frequently and gaining rave reviews.

French harpist Delphine Constantin-Reznik’s interest in Swedish harp music took flight when she was appointed harpist with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, and it is the result of her research and initiative that this première recording has come about. For this we are truly grateful, and it is always a fine thing to see a forgotten composer finally emerge into the daylight, especially in such a fine recording as this. The recording engineers have done an excellent job, and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra has a fine sound, with everything benefitting from a generous concert hall acoustic.

Dominy Clements

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