Alfvén: Symphony No 1 in F minor, Op 7; Drapa, Op 27; Midsommarvaka, Op 19

Reviewed on Wed 27 Jun, 2018

The irresistibly tuneful and indestructibly fresh Midsommarvaka (aka Midsummer Vigil) receives a performance with heaps of affection, detail, humour and panache to commend it.

Volume 1 in a new cycle of Hugo Alfvén symphonies from CPO kicks off in propitious fashion with a dashingly eloquent account of the likeable First Symphony that the Swedish composer completed in January 1897. So exquisitely does Łukasz Borowicz shape the ambitious opening movement's lovely second subject that one positively welcomes the inclusion of the exposition repeat. Elsewhere, the succeeding Andante generates a most grateful lyrical fervour, the scherzo goes with a swing, and not even the somewhat discursive finale outstays its welcome. Indeed, Borowicz's exemplary orchestra sounds as if it is thoroughly enjoying the whole experience both here and in the two fillers: Drapa ('Nordic ballad') comprises an 11-minute elegy for sizeable forces and incorporates an extensive harp contribution, while the irresistibly tuneful and indestructibly fresh Midsommarvaka (aka Midsummer Vigil or Swedish Rhapsody No 1) receives a performance with heaps of affection, detail, humour and panache to commend it (that dusky transition into the gorgeous central portion distils a truly spine-tingling atmosphere). The ideally glowing, judiciously balanced engineering emanates from Berlin's Jesus-Christus-Kirche. All in all, a job very well done; I eagerly await the next instalment!
–Andrew Achenbach