Atterberg: Symphonies – No 1 in B minor, Op 3; No 5 in D minor, Op 42 (Sinfonia funebre)

Reviewed on Mon 27 Jul, 2015

Atterberg possesses a distinctive voice and his offerings are clearly the work of a composer who knew his stuff; certainly, the middle movement of the Fifth (Sinfonia funebre) is most moving.

How listeners respond to this disc will be determined partly by their knowledge or ignorance of musical history, and by their attitude to musical progress. For those inquisitive souls who like exploring and don't mind where their pleasures are to be found, this excellently recorded and finely performed pair of symphonies by the Swede Kurt Atterberg (1887-1974) has plenty to offer – warmth, romanticism, bold gestures and a certain uncomplicatedness (not quite the same as simplicity). We tend not to hear this kind of music because of questionable comparisons, partly because the focus of interest is usually on composers considered groundbreakers of one sort or another in their time. Our loss. Atterberg possesses a distinctive voice and his offerings are clearly the work of a composer who knew his stuff; certainly, the middle movement of the Fifth (Sinfonia funebre) is most moving irrespective of when it was written. Poulenc, Prokofiev, Vaughan Williams, Bernstein and Nielsen are among the many composers who show us just how much is still possible within the realm of tonality. So, too, does Atterberg.
–Ivor Solomons