This is another enterprising album in Sterling's Swedish Romantic series.
All four works are receiving their world première recordings.
Albert Rubenson belonged to an artistic and well-connected Jewish family
in Stockholm. He studied in Leipzig - violin, harmony and counterpoint; and
composition with Niels W. Gade. When he returned to Stockholm in 1850, Rubenson
became a viola player with Hovkapellet (opera orchestra) before devoting
himself to composition. He also served as a music critic on the Swedish New
Musical Journal and was appointed Inspector of the Stockholm Conservatory
of Music in 1872. In this post he became a fastidious civil servant whose
musical opinions were conservative in the extreme, a marked turn-about from
his more liberal ideas of earlier years when he had championed modern music.
He preferred to compose for orchestra although the demand was for smaller
scale works and songs.
Drapa (Ode), the short overture that begins the programme, was composed in
1866. Drapa is the term for an ancient Icelandic poem of praise. The work
is rather ceremonial in nature and speaks of chivalry and heroism but with
an occasional melancholic tinge.
Pleasant melodies are scattered throughout all four of these works but none
of them are particularly memorable. The Symphony in C major was written in
1847 when Rubenson was a student in Leipzig.
It is an interesting work, for a 21 year-old, with some novel attributes.
It is full of youthful enthusiasm. The influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn
is very apparent. The first movement is lively with a distinct spring in
its step; the interest lies in a rhythmic diversity that the booklet aptly
describes as often capricious. The movement is also rich in unusual modulations.
The second movement is unconventional too: Alegretto moderato- Allegro-
Tempo primo- Allegro-Lento-Tempo primo. The breezy Allegro is enlivened
by refreshingly displaced accents. The slow movement is lyrical and slightly
melancholic. An extraordinary trumpet call announces the start of the finale
which is rousing and jubilant with a pastoral quality too.
In the Symphonic Intermezzo (composed 1860; first performed 1868),
Rubenson develops his use of folk-song material. The first movement feels
somewhat Brahmsian and it mixes the homely with the heroic/dramatic. The
second movement has a rather hymn-like solemnity before this mood is rudely
interrupted by boisterous, catchy folk-song material. The final movement
is energetic with vital rhythms and syncopations.
For me, the most attractive and entertaining work on the disc is the Trois
Pièces Symphoniques (1871). This is really light music; a delightful
mix of folk and salon music. The first movement, marked Allegretto quasi
Allegro might be rather stilted but it is an appealing confection. I was
reminded of Eric Coates and the salon music of Elgar. The Vivace is a quick
and spirited scherzo - very brief at just over two minutes duration; and
the concluding Allegro ma non troppo ends on a more serious and introspective
Roy Goodman and his Umeå players deliver spirited and committed
performances. As an aside I was struck by the booklet's front cover picture
(reproduced above). It has such a disturbing and haunting quality. The note
inside gives only its title in Swedish with no indiction about what it depicts.