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Orchestral colour

The symphonies of Kurt Atterberg -
encountered by

'... a towering Pelion with which to storm the heavens ...'

Kurt Atterberg: Symphonies 2 and 5 (c) 2002 CPO/Hessicher Rundfunk

It was a main pleasure of my boyhood to browse through record catalogues and wonder how many 78s of what coloured label my meagre pocket-money plus earnings as a newspaper boy might lead to in how many weeks. The name of Kurt Atterberg caught my eye. I was wonderstruck that he had got two thousand pounds in 1928 by writing a symphony, his No 6, to commemorate the Schubert centenary. The munificence of the Columbia and Polydor gramophone companies seemed to put Midas nowhere; but at the time my savings went to Schubert himself. In years of slightly better payment as an editor of the Musical Times, I could follow up the Atterberg story. The Hallé under Hamilton Harty gave the first British performance of No 6, and the MT critic was merely 'saddened by the thought that there had been six hundred symphonies entered for this contest, and that Atterberg's had been deemed the best!' Ernest Newman considered the symphony a hoax, and Atterberg compounded general vexation by half-admitting it was. MT then denounced it as a very expensive joke.

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Copyright © 23 October 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK


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