Atterberg: Piano Concerto (CD review)

Rhapsody; Ballade & Passacaglia. Love Derwinger, piano; Ari Rasilainen, Radio-Philharmonie Hanover des NDR. CPO  999 732-2.

If the first few moments of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg's Piano Concerto sound a lot like the Grieg Concerto, it probably isn't coincidence. Atterberg freely admitted an admiration for his fellow Scandinavian. Atterberg (1887-1974) is another of those artists whose works are important but seldom recorded. Perhaps they were only important in their time, and their time has come and gone. Nonetheless, it's lucky for us that companies like CPO (and Naxos and so many other labels) are keeping lesser-known composers in the public eye.

The Piano Concerto is the focus of this disc, although it's preceded by a delightful little Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra that's full of exotic charm, and it's followed by the Ballad and Passacaglia, equally brief (about ten minutes) but equally fetching.

Ari Rasilainen
Then, in between, comes the Piano Concerto of 1936, which is foremost on the program, as well it should be. Besides beginning with a homage to Grieg, it settles into a series of powerful and rhapsodic statements of quite sophisticated, albeit slightly melancholy, orchestral proportions. After that is one of the loveliest (and again slightly melancholic) slow movements I've heard in some time. The finale, marked "Furioso," seems to me a little out of keeping with its somewhat subdued antecedents, but it does ease up at the end.

I admit that a previous disc of this composer's Third and Sixth Symphonies (CPO 999 640-2) did not impress as much as this one did, perhaps because of the Piano Concerto's further infusion of folk and blues elements. Whatever, I found it a minor treasure that I'm glad I got to hear. What's more, pianist Love Derwinger plays enchantingly, Maestro Ari Rasilainen keeps the pace moving sweetly, and the orchestra play it with a marked degree of enthusiasm.

As with CPO's earlier disc of Atterberg material, however, the sound is not overly impressive. There's nothing really wrong with it per se, mind you, but it doesn't impress one with any degree of transparency, impact, or stage depth. Rather, it just sort of hangs out there doing its own thing unobtrusively, if a bit softly and flatly.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa