ATTERBERG Symphony No 3. 3 Nocturnes. Vittorioso
Atterberg’s Third Symphony was assembled in stages between 1914 and 1916 from ideas for three seascapes/tone-poems that – after the premiere of the central Storm, with which the opening Summer Haze was also performed – convinced him to make a unified whole. Despite the piecemeal creation, the Third is arguably the finest of Atterberg’s nine, and there are some who rate it one of the finest Nordic symphonies of the first half of the 20th century. I am not inclined to disagree, allowing that it is a primarily descriptive or illustrative work; and Järvi’s beautifully crafted account, with some delicious playing from the Gothenburgers, makes a superb case for it. If no one has quite managed the magic of the opening pages as did Ehrling (whose account is still available, download-only, from Caprice), this newcomer is a close second, with the best sound, the performance richer and fuller than Rasilainen’s.
Atterbergians will be excited about the fillers, premiere recordings of the Three Nocturnes (1929-32) and Vittorioso (1962). Both are drawn, as is the Seventh Symphony, Sinfonia romantica, from his third opera Fanal, which dealt with the capture and rescue of a princess during the Peasants’ War in Germany in 1525. The colourfully contrasting and descriptive Nocturnes follow aspects of the drama, as their titles reveal: ‘The Flight to the Executioner’s Cottage’, ‘The Dream, March to the Scaffold’ and ‘The Awakening’. Vittorioso, which can be played separately, as an optional finale to the Seventh or – as here – as a fourth Nocturne, catches the happy ending very nicely. Yet though Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra deliver the Nocturnes and Vittorioso with total conviction, it is West Coast Pictures that lingers longest in the memory.