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Penguin Guide, January 2009

ALFVÉN: Symphony No. 2 / The Prodigal Son 8.555072
ALFVÉN: Symphony No. 3 / Legend of the Skerries 8.553729
ALFVÉN: Symphony No. 4, Op. 39 / Festival Overture, Op. 52 8.557284

The Second Symphony of 1899 put Alfvén firmly on the map. On Naxos it is coupled with The Prodigal Son ballet, which is a delight.

The sensitive, well-prepared performances under Niklas Willén also serve these symphonies well.

The Fourth is perhaps Alfvén’s most ambitious and in many ways most imaginative symphony and Alfvén takes a leaf out of Nielsen’s book by incorporating two wordless voices into the score in the manner of the Sinfonia espansiva. The Naxos version from Iceland is well played and is highly competitive, without necessarily being a first choice, unless the Naxos coupling is preferred.

Steve Schwartz
Classical Net, July 2008

…Willén and his Icelanders give loving performances of both works…

Fanfare, July 2005

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Classic FM

The fourth in the Naxos Hugo Alfvén collection highlight the composer’s greatest works on an intensely rewarding disc

Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) tends to be thought of as a ‘one-work wonder’, known only for his Swedish Rhapsody No.1, ‘Midsummer Vigil’. This disc, the fourth in Naxos’s series of Alfvén recordings, ought to change that. The Festival Overture is an exuberant curtain-raiser but the Fourth Symphony, composed in 1919, is a truly wonderful work. Its programme, hinted at in the subtitle ‘From the Outermost Skerries’, was described by the composer as ‘the tale of two young souls. The action takes place in the skerries, where sea rages among the rocks on gloomy, stormy nights, by moonlight and sunshine…the moods of nature are no less symbols for the human heart.’ Besides being a remarkable musical evocation of the sea (its four sections are played as a single movement), its most striking feature is the use of a soprano and tenor vocalise (Nielsen had used the same device in the slow movement of his 1911 Sinfonia espansiva). Alfvén employs the wordless voices to conjure an atmosphere of chilling other-worldliness—of lost souls calling to each other in passages of almost erotic desire. This opulent, late-Romantic score is one of heightened emotions and drama, superbly played and sung, and an intensely rewarding discovery. © Classic FM

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