Larsson Symphony No. 3 – Music that should be heard more often

This release completes Andrew Manze’s traversal of Lars-Erik Larsson symphonies — although I hope he doesn’t stop there. Larsson was a talented composer who crafted his own language out of various 20th Century trends. It’s a voice that needs to be heard more often.

The centerpiece of this release is Larsson’s 1944 Symphony No. 3 in C minor. Larsson withdrew the symphony after its premiere. The final movement of the third symphony was reworked and recast as his Concert Overture No. 3. It’s a shame that the work went unheard for decades. The symphony is a superbly-crafted four-movement work with brilliant motifs and equally brilliant orchestrations.

The work opens with a motif as distinctive as that of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. And like Beethoven’s theme, it forms the foundation of all that follows. How to describe the slow movement? Beautifully poignant. It’s highly chromatic harmonies reminded me somewhat of Wagner — with perhaps a little more restraint. The third movement has some lovely modal passages that could only come from Larsson. And the finale brings it all home with the opening motif transformed into something new, yet still recognizable. This symphony is a masterwork.

Andrew Manze and the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra perform with energy and verve. The orchestra has a warm, full sound. The wind and brass sections are especially fine in this recording, especially in solo passages.

Also included are three of Larsson’s later works. The Adagio for String Orchestra and Tre Orkesterstyken (Three Orchestral Pieces) date from 1960. Larsson had incorporated 12-tone technique into his work — or rather, he adapted it to his needs. The works sound highly chromatic, yet remain grounded. Larsson harnesses the dissonances of 12-tone music to heighten the emotional impact of his (somewhat) tonal melodies.

This release was well worth the wait.

Lars-Erik Larsson: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3
Symphony No. 3, Op. 34; Tre Orkesterstyken op. 49; Adagio for String Orchestra op. 48, Musica permutatio for Orchestra op. 66
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra; Andrew Manze, conductor
CPO 777673-2 SACD

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