Kurt Atterberg - Symphonies 1 & 4

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If you were to ask a crowd of music lovers to yell out the first name that came to mind of a Scandinavian composer, you would hear many of them say Sibelius, Grieg, even quite a few Alfven, just to name a handful, but I am pretty sure you wouldn't hear, not even once, the name Atterberg, and that is a shame. I wonder why? ... If anyone reading this knows why some composers flourish and their music lasts for centuries, while others who are just as good if not better, are quietly filed away and forgotten, please let me know. It is probably due to a combination of socio/economic and psychological reasons and other complex human interests and activities, or could be as simple as personal taste at any given moment in time.

Kurt Atterberg was a Swedish composer who lived from 1887 to 1974. He was an extremely disciplined and hard working man who played the cello, earned a degree in electrical engineering, became head of a division in the Swedish patent office, wrote extensively on many subjects, was a music critic for a Stockholm paper, was forced to retire from his post at the patent office at the age of 81, and yet with all of this, managed to compose nine symphonies, five concertos, five operas, and numerous instrumental pieces and chamber works, while being part of various music societies and organizations, and serving as secretary of the Royal Music Academy.

As a composer, he was self-taught, proven by the fact that his Symphony No. 1, was submitted to the Stockholm Conservatory for admission into composition classes. He obviously already knew how to write a great symphony, but he most likely felt that he needed the discipline and formal training.

His first symphony is a solid, grandly conceived, melodic, well crafted score. The final movement in particular showing a strong sense of continuity in it's development and thematic tightness and solid lines merging into one bold statement. One of the best written 1st symphonies I've heard. The Symphony No. 4 on the other hand, is a smaller scale, native folksong inspired work. It is written with the same skill and care, but shows a different style of Atterberg. The string writing in particular is outstanding in this work.

This recording is first class, and CPO should be proud to have recorded all of Atterberg's symphonies. Hopefully in the future, we will hear the name "Atterberg" join the list of popular scandinavian composers that first comes to mind.

As a matter of fact, I recommend you buy the set of all his Symphonies which the included Amazon link will direct you to.

Jean-Yves Duperron