Kurt Atterberg Double Concerto Deserves Better Sound

This release marks the world premiere recording of Kurt Atterberg’s Concerto for violin, cello, and orchestra. The Swedish composer once characterized the 1960 double concerto as the last piece of his music worth performing. Perhaps — only two other works were written later.

The concerto is an interesting blend of old and new. Atterberg was ever the champion of Post-Romanticism. The concerto’s structure and harmonies harken back to the practices of the early 1900s.

But the piece doesn’t sound outdated. Atterberg is a skillful melodist. both violin and cello have beautiful passages that engage the listener. The music reminds a little of Dag Wiren and Vaughn Holmboe, two other Scandinavian composers unaffected by fashionable trends.

Also included is Barroco, Suite No. 5 for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 23. The work is inspired by Baroque music but sounds nothing like it. Rather, the sections seem a blend of Swedish folk music and late 17th Century orchestration (without the harpsichord).

I think the mix works quite effectively. The “Baroque” flavor gives the music a simplistic charm, enhanced by the tuneful, folklike melodies.

The Sinfonia for Strings, Op. 53 also exists as a string quintet. The string orchestra version adds double basses for a fuller sound. If you like string music by Elgar, Britten, or Sibelius, you’ll enjoy this work.

The Örebro Chamber Orchestra directed by Thord Svedlund delivers sympathetic and effective performances. Soloists Amus Kerstin Andersson (violin) and Max Levin (cello) turn in fine performances. Their playing in the concerto seems collaborative at times, making it a team effort (rather than dueling artists).

The album was recorded in the Örebro Concerto Hall. To my ears, the ambiance was excessive. At best, it gave the music a kind of luminosity. Mostly, though, it just seemed to slightly smear the ensemble sound, taking away some of the music’s detail.

Kurt Atterberg: Concerto for violin, cello, and orchestra in G minor-C major, Op. 57;  Barocco, Suite No. 5 for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 23; Sinfonia for Strings, Op. 53
Amus Kerstin Andersson, violin; Max Levin, violoncello
Örebro Chamber Orchestra; Thord Svedlund, conductor
Danacord DACOCD 836

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