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Wonderful achievement

RODERIC DUNNETT listens to the 3rd Symphony of Wilhelm Peterson-Berger

cpo    999 632-2

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger: Symphony No 3 - Earina Suite (c) 2000 CPO


This would definitely be a candidate for my disc of the year. The terrific Norrköping (pronounced 'sh' as in 'shopping') Symphony Orchestra should go on tour forthwith and take this symphony with them [listen -- track 1, 7:22-8:18]. Peterson-Berger (l867-1942) studied in Sweden and later Dresden. He was a prominent Swedish Wagnerian, translating both Wagner's writings and Tristan. His most renowned opera, The Doomsday Prophets (whose overture is appended here), was a kind of Scandinavian Mastersingers. Later in life he retired to the lakebound island of Frösö, which now houses a museum in his name.

The conductor here is Michail Jurowski, a surname to conjure with, who produces desert-island quality playing from all departments. The orchestra, founded in l912, and Symphony 3 (l913-15, premiered l917) are roughly coevals. There are too many points of excellence to mention, though the folding of clarinet over the remarkable extended slow fugue that forms the slow movement, oboe, flute and harp towards the Delian chromatic follow-on, the ticking clock effect of harp near the close [listen -- track 3, 10:01-11:01], plus the crystalline vitality of the scherzo -- as vivid as Sibelius and vivacious as Stravinsky -- are four. Peterson-Berger almost, but perhaps too jauntily, solves the last movement problem; but the first movement is a revelation, awesome in places, and making use of long pedals, yet riddled with inventive detail. A wonderful achievement, immensely rewarding. CPO's recording, incidentally, strikes me as one of its best.

An additional feature of the symphony is that its inspiration was Lappland, and some of the remarkably tuneful elements spring from Lapp folk music : not sentimentally at all, except in the rum-ti-tum near the close. The other works -- the Earina ('Spring') Suite and the overture to the opera -- are also glorious, with some amazing solo work -- sensually vibratoed trumpet and oboe in the opening Invocation, superb evocative Sibelian (or Rimskian) bassoon in the suite's final 'Rhapsody' and ushering in the overtures's first fughetta. The Norrköping Orchestra's string playing is as gorgeous in both the suite and the overture's vibrant fugue as in the symphony. The Earina intermezzo ('The Flower Offering') is pure ballet, and so is the bristling March ('The Consecration'), which has a bluster to cap Prokofiev, while the bigger moments (sometimes just a fraction too blasting) feel like one of the great Russian orchestras in full flow. Exciting to stumble across a composer and playing so vital and refreshing.


Copyright © 3 January 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK







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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews