Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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KURT ATTERBERG (1887-1974) Cello Sonata* (1920s?) [27.28] Cello Concerto** (1917-22) [35.45] Werner Thomas-Mifune (cello) Carmen Piazzini (piano) Berlin RSO/Karl Anton Rickenbacher *rec Munich, Nov 1994**rec Berlin, Oct 1994 issued 1997 KOCH-SCHWANN 3-1585-2 [63.13]



Atterberg's music has been enjoying a slowly unfolding renaissance on record since the mid 1970s. A Swedish romantic, he has a very large output much of which is still inaccessible on disc. His symphonies 1-6 have been available piece-meal across a variety of labels. Until very recently the last three symphonies were a closed book unless you were prepared to explore the highways and byways of off-air tape collections. Sterling's wonderful CD of symphonies 7 (Romantica) and 8 has now given us all but one of the symphonies. The last symphony is the forty minute Visionaria (No. 9) for soloists, chorus and orchestra - a grim work known to me from an aircheck in the version conducted by Fougstedt with Kim Borg as soloist. Rather like Malcolm Arnold there is also a fine Symphony for Strings.

We very much need recordings of the double concerto and the piano and violin concertos. The three interludes from his Thousand and One Nights opera Fanal plus the tone poem The River (nothing to do with Palmgren's similarly titled second piano concerto) would also more than repay the investment. I have only scratched the surface.

Mifune adventurous soloist - witness his recorded repertoire which includes the Grachaninov suite, the Rubinstein concertos and the Khachaturyan concerto. In the present recording (I have not heard the others!) there is no suspicion of time-serving. On the contrary the impression left is of an artist at the service of the music.

The sonata which is quite volcanic is clearly the work of a very fine and affecting tunesmith. It begins with a first movement that has a long romantic tune spun with infinite care and resource. This rises to a climax when the soloist's instrument almost howls in passion. The middle of the movement invokes blue and placid waters. Mifune draws on both delicacy and strength from both parts. This sonata has both piano and cello truly interacting. There is little of submissive accompaniment from the piano though singer is the cello. It is a work of sentiment without sentimentality; try the middle movement adagio molto. The finale is one of romance and Medtnerian aristocratic filigree. The piano part eggs on the cello in triumphant virtuosity. A grand plunging and surging romantic tune rounds off the proceeding, is given an Hispanic twist and then trails satisfyingly to the closing bars of surprising calm. The sonata joins the lists which already include the rachmaninov and Foulds cello sonatas: very affecting; a real discovery

The Concerto's andante cantabile first movement is an audacious introduction where an awed vibrato from the high violins provides a bed of sound over which the solo cello sings. The cello part projects music shaken wretched and shivering with dark and compelling emotion. A gloomy and cataclysmic tone winds in and out of the work leavened by the soloist's impassioned song. This is truly a work of late romantic fervour. Going by the sound of several passages Atterberg seems to have been deeply impressed by Sibelius whose second symphony and Humoresques (violin and orchestra) were clearly an influence. Add to that many pages where Atterberg seems dead set on becoming the Swedish Korngold and you have a work to reckon with. Lissom tunes, golden taste, regret and Elgarian bite summarise this major discovery. If there were any justice the work would have become a repertory standard years ago.

The CD cover is CD Friedrich's painting of Nordic Sea in Moonlight.

Recommended - especially to pursuers of Scandinavian romanticism. Your investment will be richly rewarded.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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