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.


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

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

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.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa