Larsson: Symphony No 2, Op 17; Variations for Orchestra, Op 50; Barococo: Suite for Orchestra, Op 64

Reviewed on Tue 29 Dec, 2015

Larsson's Barococo Suite (1973) re-imagines old dance-forms (such as the Gavotte, the Minuet and the Quadrille) with liveliness, wit, humorous allusions, and the occasional sarcasm – imagine Poulenc and Shostakovich as a composing double act.

Swedish composer Lars-Erik Larsson (1908-86) wrote his Symphony No 2 in 1937. The twin peaks of Scandinavian music – Nielsen and (especially) Sibelius – may be discerned in the generally easygoing, lyrical and skipping first movement, which gathers greater force and concentration in the development, without losing gracefulness. The middle movement is pastoral, if varied: a march bursts in after five minutes. The weightiest music comes in the finale. It’s a surprise to learn that Larsson withdrew this work, for although it is at times derivative and uneven it also has numerous attractions. Variations for Orchestra (1962) is terse and rigorous, deft and buoyant, intensely expressive and worth returning to. The very different six-movement Barococo Suite (1973) re-imagines old dance-forms (such as the Gavotte, the Minuet and the Quadrille) with liveliness, wit, humorous allusions, and the occasional sarcasm – imagine Poulenc and Shostakovich as a composing double act. These dedicated performances are well recorded.
–Colin Anderson