- Symphony No. 9, Op. 54
- Symphony No. 7 ("Sinfonia Romantica"), Op. 45
The Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg won a $10,000 prize in 1928 for his "Symphony No. 6" from the U.S. Columbia label in a heavily publicized competition featuring top conductors such as Toscanini. After that, like Sibelius, he seemed to hit a creative wall, at least in regard to orchestral music, but instead of falling silent like Sibelius, he continued to write in what by the 1940s had become rather conservative Romantic idioms. Conductor Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra have recorded a complete Atterberg symphony cycle, concluding here and beautifully recorded by Chandos in the orchestra's own hall. The "Symphony No. 7, Op. 45," bears the subtitle "Sinfonia romantica," given as a rebuke to critics who complained the work was old-fashioned. Based partly on themes from an earlier opera, "Fanal," the three-movement work, cut down from four by the composer, has an attractively (small-r) romantic slow movement and indeed brings to mind Dvorák more than any other composer; the influence of Sibelius and the other 20th century symphonists is felt more in the orchestration than in the tonal material. Atterberg's "Symphony No. 9, Op. 54 (Sinfonia visionaria)," appeared in 1956. It is a single-movement, cantata-like choral work, with two soloists and a text based on Scandinavian (specifically, Icelandic) mythology depicting the origins of evil and its ultimate triumph in the world's destruction. At this point Atterberg turned to 12-tone music -- but only for the depiction of evil itself. Apparently the elderly Sibelius admired the work, but despite its seemingly newfound relevance it may be a tough slog even for an audience primed for the revival of neo-Romantic works. The best things here are the performances, for the music is right in Järvi's wheelhouse; he gets the absolute best out of the Gothenburgers, with arresting work from the instrumental soloists throughout the "Symphony No. 7." Recommended for enthusiasts of the Scandinavian symphony.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Atterburg: Orchestral Works, Vol. 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Maestro Jarvi is at his best with these emotion-charged Post-Romantic canvases. As one might expect, he extracts every ounce of drama and passion in these 2 symphonies of Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974). Both contain a profusion of robust thematic ideas, textures and colors. No. 7 is the more immediately appealing of the two. Its tone is heady and affirmative, the working out of ideas meticulous. It grows in stature with repeated contact. Referred to as “a symphony of evil” by its composer, No. 9 is ambitious in scope, extravagant in its scoring. Ten years separate it from No. 7. Atterberg’s vision has become darker, apocalyptic. The writing is knottier, the harmonic language significantly broadened. Despite his lack of regard for Schoenberg’s theoretical system, Atterberg prominently employs a twelve tone motive, in essence an aural equivalent of evil. The text is derived from Voluspa the notable 10th century Icelandic creation poem prophesizing the end of the world. It’s a fascinating piece well worth the effort required for its full appreciation. Under Maestro Jarvi’s masterful direction, the piece is vividly brought to life. Soloists, chorus and, of course, the wonderful Gothenburg SO give it their all. Utilizing an indigenous production team, Chandos has delivered one of its finest sounding discs, stunning in its presence and impact, most especially in the Super Audio format. Program notes and packaging are up to the usual high standards of this label.