About this Recording
8.223404 - ATTERBERG: Violin Sonata / Trio Concertante

Kurt Atterberg (1887–1974)
Violin Sonata • Trio Concertante


The Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg was born in Göteborg in 1887 and studied the cello at school before entering the Stockholm College of Technology. Qualifying as an engineer in 1911, he took employment with the patent office, continuing there until 1968, from 1936 as principal secretary. He was instrumental in the formation of the Swedish Composers’ Society, of which he was president from 1924 until 1947, and of the Swedish Performing Rights Society, in which he occupied a similar position. At the same time he won a reputation as a conductor and critic, as well as in the field of composition. His works include five operas and nine symphonies, forming only part of a considerable output.

Atterberg’s B minor Violin Sonata was completed in 1925 and published in 1930 as a sonata for cello, viola or violin and piano, although the composer intended the work originally for his own instrument, the cello. In this form he himself played it in the Organ Hall of the Royal Academy of Music in the early winter of 1925 and a few months later it was performed at an ISCM concert. The first movement follows romantic tradition, while the second is influenced by Swedish folk-lore.

The Two Autumn Ballades that make up Opus 15 were completed in 1918 and constitute the only original work Atterberg wrote for solo piano. The Valse Fantôme of the same year was part of the incidental music written for Maeterlinck’s play Sister Beatrice, later scored as an instrumental suite for violin, viola and string orchestra. The solo piano version of the last movement of the suite was made at the request of the ballerina Jenny Hasselquist, who used it to considerable effect in her performances. Originally called “Valse monotone”, the title “Valse Fantôme” was eventually chosen as an apt description of the dream-world evoked, too, by Sibelius in his Valse triste.

The Rondeau Rétrospectif of 1926 was written for a composer’s competition to mark the opening of the new Concert Hall in Stockholm, in addition to a cantata that Atterberg had first intended as his entry. In its various episodes the Rondo offers a satirical view of the history of the Concert Society, from its foundation in 1914. The piece, which the composer did not intend as a serious contender for the prize offered, was completed in difficulties, when Atterberg was suffering from the effects of pneumonia. In the event the jury awarded the first prize to Atterberg’s cantata and third prize to the Rondo, which the composer has submitted in the hand-writing of a friend, under the pseudonym Spectator. Carl Nielsen, a member of the jury, later told Atterberg that they had originally wanted to give the rondo second prize, but had decided to give the award to a symphony by Melchers, considering the Rondo not serious enough.

The Rondo starts with a lively representation of the beginning of the Concert Society. Motifs indicating the Ode to Joy and the Eroica Symphony, suggesting the Programme Committee, are combined with melodies of national origin representing Swedish composers, ending in a combination of elements from Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, the score including references to well known players in the Stockholm Orchestra. Towards the end Atterberg quotes part of his own Sixth Symphony and in the episode Conductor’s International he refers to the Marseillaise and the well known Heil dir. The Society, in its euphoria, forgets its true purpose and there is laughter and whistling. A passacaglia, based on a "national" ground, leads the music from chaos to dignity, the cacophony dissipated with each succeeding variation, leading to a jazz-influenced ending.

Atterberg completed his Trio Concertante in G minor/C major, for violin, cello and harp, Opus 57, in 1966, a version of his 1960 Double Concerto for violin and cello, commissioned by Swedish Radio. The first performance of the concerto, with its references to Swedish folk music, took place in April 1961 under Ernst Ludwig Jochum.

Stig Jacobsson
Adapted by Keith Anderson

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