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CLASSICAL  September 2008

CLASSICAL September 2008

Subject:

Re: Alfven's Fourth

From:

Thanh-Tam Le <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 17 Sep 2008 18:53:42 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (56 lines)

Steve Schwartz wrote:

>>Hugo Alfven may be the most popular Swedish composer in Sweden.
>>And why not?  Marvelous tunes in sumptuous Straussian orchestrations
>>characterize him at his best.  Unlike someone like Sibelius, Stenhammar,
>>or Nielsen, however, Alfven's music lacks a strong intellectual or
>>architectural component.  Listeners usually don't have to fret over
>>whether they will "get it."

David Lamb:

>Steve is right about the good tunes and sumptuous orchestration, and
>listeners do definitely "get it." While I was there, the Swedish composer
>that seemed to get the most play was Lars-Erik Larsson.  Then there was
>also quite a bit of Berwald, Stenhammar, Atterberg, Wiren, and early
>Rosenberg.
>
>But that was twenty years ago.  Does anybody know who the most popular
>Swedish composers are these days?  Maybe Alfven really has had a
>reawakening.  In any case, you hear a heck of a lot more Swedish music
>in Sweden than American music in America.  Fy, skam!

Although I have sadly never been to Sweden, I do try to follow their
musical life and listen several times a week to SR P2 (classical channel
of the public Swedish Radio) through the Internet.  Alfven's symphonies
seem to be performed from time to time.  The late-Romantic composer who
enjoys a revival would be Atterberg, probably because the past is
definitely past by now and any controversy concerning a historic vision
of Sweden's former empire or Atterberg himself is receding out of sight.
Of course, more recent composers have become household names, such as
Bortz, the Sandstroms, Eliasson...  Pettersson remains the eternal
outsider, still one or another of his symphonies enjoy performances
every once in a while.

Back to Alfven, I do think that his music relies probably more on the
senses and less on the intellect than Stenhammar's but I beg to disagree
with Steve's severity (for once).  Alfevn is not merely a wizard of
immediacy, he has a sense of the long line (like Rachmaninov in another
register) and this is particularly remarkable in his 4th symphony.
Maybe Willen's rendition does not do it full justice under that respect.
Nils Grevillius recorded it in the early 1960s, a deleted LP which ought
to be reedited on CD. Alfven himself described Grevillius as the best
performer of his music he could ever dream of.  Even though that historical
recording puts the voices a little too much on the fore, it does achieve
the sense of greater form, the perfect arch designed by the composer.

Best wishes,

Thanh-Tam Le
Paris, France

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