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Atterberg's 7th Symphony, entitled Sinfonia romantica, derives much of its basic material from a three-act opera, Fanal, written about ten years earlier. It begins strongly [listen, track 1, 0:00-0:54], and then breaks into lighter and colourful mood, showing a skill for clear, imaginative orchestration. The simple pastoral spirit of the second movement, haunted by a gentle rocking motion, sweeps in due course to a romantic climax [listen, track 2, 4:44-5:43], but its closing third movement dissolves into a folksy rondo, a not very inspiring use of either folk or rondo and, for me, too much like a repetitive Edward German country dance. The 8th Symphony (1945) is intentionally a folk-song symphony in which all the melodic material for its four movements has a national origin. Its first is, after a brief slow introduction, colourful and energetic [listen, track 4, 1:08-2:07] and perhaps that, as with the 7th Symphony, is the best of it.

The second movement is a restful Adagio, with the cor anglais inevitably sounding a touch Finnish, and an attractive cello solo in the central chamber music style section. There is a Mendelssohn-like scherzo with the sort of ebullience that Malcolm Arnold gave his English Dances [listen -- track 6, 0:18-1:14], and a lively finale which is rather disappointing. Atterberg the composer is not so much an individual voice, as the voice of a Scandinavian era; delicate, skilful, careful, and seemingly untroubled by a world that should not be changing. His musical criticism, apparently, became more resistant, less generous, to younger composers as he grew older -- something the listener to the strong clean performances on this CD may well understand.

Copyright © 6 January 2002 Patric Standford, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK







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