Atterberg's music has been enjoying a slowly unfolding renaissance on record
since the mid 1970s. A Swedish romantic, he has a very large output much
of which is still inaccessible on disc. His symphonies 1-6 have been available
piece-meal across a variety of labels. Until very recently the last three
symphonies were a closed book unless you were prepared to explore the highways
and byways of off-air tape collections. Sterling's wonderful CD of symphonies
7 (Romantica) and 8 has now given us all but one of the symphonies.
The last symphony is the forty minute Visionaria (No. 9) for soloists,
chorus and orchestra - a grim work known to me from an aircheck in the version
conducted by Fougstedt with Kim Borg as soloist. Rather like Malcolm Arnold
there is also a fine Symphony for Strings.
We very much need recordings of the double concerto and the piano and violin
concertos. The three interludes from his Thousand and One Nights opera
Fanal plus the tone poem The River (nothing to do with Palmgren's
similarly titled second piano concerto) would also more than repay the
investment. I have only scratched the surface.
Mifune adventurous soloist - witness his recorded repertoire which includes
the Grachaninov suite, the Rubinstein concertos and the Khachaturyan concerto.
In the present recording (I have not heard the others!) there is no suspicion
of time-serving. On the contrary the impression left is of an artist at the
service of the music.
The sonata which is quite volcanic is clearly the work of a very fine and
affecting tunesmith. It begins with a first movement that has a long romantic
tune spun with infinite care and resource. This rises to a climax when the
soloist's instrument almost howls in passion. The middle of the movement
invokes blue and placid waters. Mifune draws on both delicacy and strength
from both parts. This sonata has both piano and cello truly interacting.
There is little of submissive accompaniment from the piano though
singer is the cello. It is a work of sentiment without sentimentality;
try the middle movement adagio molto. The finale is one of romance and Medtnerian
aristocratic filigree. The piano part eggs on the cello in triumphant virtuosity.
A grand plunging and surging romantic tune rounds off the proceeding, is
given an Hispanic twist and then trails satisfyingly to the closing bars
of surprising calm. The sonata joins the lists which already include the
rachmaninov and Foulds cello sonatas: very affecting; a real discovery
The Concerto's andante cantabile first movement is an audacious introduction
where an awed vibrato from the high violins provides a bed of sound over
which the solo cello sings. The cello part projects music shaken wretched
and shivering with dark and compelling emotion. A gloomy and cataclysmic
tone winds in and out of the work leavened by the soloist's impassioned song.
This is truly a work of late romantic fervour. Going by the sound of several
passages Atterberg seems to have been deeply impressed by Sibelius whose
second symphony and Humoresques (violin and orchestra) were clearly an influence.
Add to that many pages where Atterberg seems dead set on becoming the Swedish
Korngold and you have a work to reckon with. Lissom tunes, golden taste,
regret and Elgarian bite summarise this major discovery. If there were any
justice the work would have become a repertory standard years ago.
The CD cover is CD Friedrich's painting of Nordic Sea in Moonlight.
Recommended - especially to pursuers of Scandinavian romanticism. Your investment
will be richly rewarded.