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Kurt ATTERBERG (1887-1974) Symphony No. 7 - 'Sinfonia Romantica'; Symphony No. 8 Malmö Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michail Jurowski STERLING CDS-1026-2




' seventh symphony, Sinfonia Romantica, a name which I chose out of irritation with the antic- romantics..." as Atterberg described it, was composed in 1941-42 and revised in 1972. At an informal meeting of three contributors to this site the spontaneous response was "doesn't this sound like Bax!". Indeed, admirers of the English composer will probably have no difficulty in relating to the red-blooded romanticism and rich harmonies and orchestration of this work (and to the other symphonies of Atterberg). This is the première recording of this symphony.

The Seventh Symphony opens with a rather dour fanfare that would seem to herald some tragic drama but the mood soon lightens and the tempo quickens to embrace the sort of heroic music one associates with Errol Flynn swashbucklers. There is also some opulent and languid romantic material and a few wry comic figures. The second Semplice Andante movement is ravishingly beautiful. I am reminded of the remarks of a commentator who described Bax's Second Symphony as one long love song; that description might be applied here but the music might also suggest a still and serene, lush landscape bathed, at the climax, in brilliant sunshine. The third movement, marked Feroce. Allegro, returns to bombast and, at first, it seems as though we are in Korngold's Sherwood Forest, but this is a wild melting pot of a movement, orgiastic with heroic/chivalric film score-like music plus march and dance-like material including a bucolic clog dance. At certain points, the music sounds quite Scottish and Irish and very Baxian. Interestingly, Atterberg's own words dominate the CD notes for this album and he relates how the basis of this symphony was his opera Fanal and how he wrestled with a fourth movement which he eventually discarded so that it could become a separate work in its own right - Op. 58 Vittorioso - yet he leaves it up to conductors' own discretion whether to use this music as a fourth movement. (It can also be tacked onto the composer's Three Nocturnes from Fanal). Maestro Jurowski choses to include only the first three movements.

Atterberg's Eighth Symphony (1944-45) receives its first CD recording on this album. It is based on Swedish folk motifs but the listener will notice a very close similarity to English folk material and indeed, the music reminds one strongly of Ralph Vaughan Williams in the jolly rollicking scherzo. Of this Symphony, Atterberg commented, 'When you happen to be encumbered with an uncontrollable urge to compose symphonic music, you cannot help it if your imagination runs away with you, and takes a melancholy little tune as the framework for a great symphony...This beautiful melody came alive in my imagination: sometimes it was sorrowful and rose red; sometimes - in its major key version - playful; and sometimes it was full of pathos.' - which nicely sums up the work except to say that the usual Atterberg heroic figures are also included and the finale is an exciting orchestral tour de force. Atterberg gives full details, in these fascinating CD booklet notes, about all the tunes he uses and how he incorporated them into this symphony. Jurowski propels the music strongly forward and reveals all the beauty of the more introspective and romantic sections. Strongly recommended.


Ian Lace

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Ian Lace

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