Atterberg: Orchestral Works, Vol 5 - Järvi
Chandos CHSA 5166
Classical - Orchestral
Atterberg: Symphony No. 7, Op. 45 "Sinfonia Romantica" (1941-42); Symphony No. 9, Op. 54 "Sinfonia visionaria" (1955-56)
Anna Larsson (soprano)
Olle Persson (baritone)
Gothenburg Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Neeme Järvi (conductor)
The final volume in our Atterberg series with Neeme Järvi and his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra is finally out. Recorded on SACD like most of the previous ones, it features two late, again rarely performed symphonies.
The seventh, featured here in its final, three-movement form, was written in 1942, fourteen years after its famous predecessor, the Dollar Symphony. Originally in four movements, the work was received dismissively by the critics, and only acquired its final shape in 1969, when Atterberg decided to tear out the last movement from the original score (it became Vittorioso, see Vol. 4). In response to what he regarded as a critical insult, he also decided to baptise the work Sinfonia romantica, just to infuriate the modernistically inclined critics even further.
The composer himself referred to his Ninth and last Symphony as ‘evil’. Setting parts of the Old Icelandic poem Völuspá, it recounts indeed how evil came into the world and how it in the end will lead to total destruction. By this time he had become a very conservative composer, rejecting atonality and dodecaphony. Composed in 1955 and 1956, during a period of much administrative travel in Europe, it is one of his longest works, yet structured as a single movement in large-scale rondo form.
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Review by Graham Williams - August 10, 2016
This release marks the completion of the invaluable Chandos cycle of the nine symphonies of Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974) from Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. With the exception of Volume 4 (Symphony No.3) that, regrettably, only appeared on CD, each of the other volumes, including this one coupling Symphonies 7 & 9, have been released in the high resolution SACD format.
Following the success of the composer's 6th Symphony in1928 it was understandable that the possibility of a follow-up 7th Symphony was to be expected. In the event the 7th Symphony did not appear until fourteen years later by which time Atterberg's romantic musical style was regarded as passé by critics and the avant-garde. Undaunted, he composed the new symphony using themes from his 1934 opera 'Fanal' because he considered that this opera contained much music of a symphonic character. Originally in four movements it eventually reached its final three-movement (fast – slow – fast) design and following the first poorly received performance Atterberg named the symphony 'Sinfonia romantica' to cock a snook at his so-called progressive critics.
Järvi gives a gripping account of this dramatic and full-blooded romantic symphony and his Gothenburg players respond with magnificent playing of absolute assurance. The heroic opening fanfares are delivered with considerable bravura as one expects from this conductor, but the slower lyrical music is handled with equal sensitivity. One could hardly imagine a better performance (or recording) of this work.
Atterberg's final symphony is the single movement 'Sinfonia visionaria' that is probably best described as a symphonic cantata. The text is taken from a section of the Icelandic poem Völuspá that tells how evil came into the world and will eventually lead to the destruction of humanity in fire and darkness The symphony's disposition is sombre, as befits the subject, and, unusually for Atterberg, darkly scored ,but it does remain predominantly melodic, reserving any dissonance for the depiction of evil – definitely an example of musical Nordic noir! Though the symphony is in one continuous single movement lasting 34'18” Chandos have helpfully provided 13 useful cue points. For this epic piece the orchestra are joined by two leading Swedish singers – the mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson and the baritone Olle Persson – and the Gothenburg Symphony Chorus. Järvi's idiomatic account of the score is both atmospheric and skilfully paced. The excellent soloists and enthusiastic choir are quite forwardly placed but orchestral detail is never obscured. Full texts and translations are provided.
The recordings of both symphonies took place in the Gothenburg Concert Hall during January 2015 and, as with the previous releases in this series, producer Lennart Dehn and engineer Torbjörn Samuelsson have worked their magic to achieve a recording of outstanding realism worthy of this label at its best.
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