Twentieth Century Symphonies

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Richard0428

Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by Richard0428 » Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:25 am

Wow! You both seem to know your Pettersson! I only 'know' three or four of the symphonies, and of those only the famous seventh at all well (so I'm not the man to offer a critique of these fascinating dark monuments to the composer's unimaginably difficult life), but what repeatedly strikes me about them is the man's courage as seems to be expressed in his music. Certainly the music is bleak, often powerfully depressing and perhaps (self?) pitying, but there's also a rage, a fighting spirit in there. Most remarkable of all, though, it seems to me, is the way that several, at least, of the symphonies I've heard, all end, not in a pit of despond or misery, but in acceptance and even a degree of peace. This is especially noticable (among the few Pettersson symphonies I've heard so far) in the wonderous seventh symphony (which probably makes the best entry point into Pettersson's dark world: it was the first work to bring him to the world's attention), but also, I recall, in others. Getting to know Pettersson's symphonies takes a certain amount of courage (I vaguely recall hearing the BIS series of the symphonies stopped because Leif Segerstam found it too much of an emotional strain), but they undeniably pack a huge emotional charge. The 'stream of consciousness' description of the form is a good one, Rob, I think that can be a difficulty with Pettersson's longer symphonies (like the mighty ninth: 70 minutes in one vast, astoundingly sprawling, continuous movement, almost as long as Maw's Oddyssey; I've found the stamina to listen to it only once), because, yep, they do sometimes seem to go on forwever. But (just like Bax, who's often accused of also writing 'formless' music: an unjustified jibe!) it's the sheer emotional energy and level of inspiration that carries me through the works, at least when I'm in the mood to face the Dark Side!
While we're talking about Swedish symphonies, there are some other fabulous compatriot symphonists out there, although after Pettersson most of these (unfairly) seem rather shallow stuff. Rob mentioned Stenhammer's second symphony (a fantastic channeling of early Sibelius in the first movement, and I love the 'chuckling' theme in the middle of the finale, but as a whole I find it a little elusive so far: I'll have to try harder, or hunt for your recommended version, Rob!). Stenhammer's first symphony, on the other hand, is in my opinion a stunning piece of work: even longer than the second symphony (50 minutes long) it's a work on a really large scale, with some truly magnificent, life-affirming melodic invention, I think; can't for the life of me understand its neglect.
Then there are the nine sumptuously colorful symphonies of Atterberg; a few true delights here: it's not by chance that the 'Dollar' symphony (no 6) is the best-known (relatively speaking!) of the nine, because it's an utterly winning yet substantial work (listen to the horn call that opens the thrillingly warm, ardent first movement, or sample the jokey high spirits of the finale for a quick, foot-tapping introduction, although there's real depth in the central, slow movement), but after this great favorite I also wouldn't want to be without (particuarly) any of the symphonies 4-8. Atterberg was a composer who really knew how to please an audience; it matters not, surely, if the music isn't especially deep. It's beautifully crafted and the inspiration uniformally high.
Broadly similar in their basically post-Romantic language, and (in the symphonies, at least) a stubborn refusal to get too deep, are Hugo Alfven, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, and Ture Rangstom, all from the generation before Atterberg. Alfven's fourth (of five), an epic and emotionally charged portrayal of the ocean (used, not very originally, it's true, to express the emotions of two young lovers) particularly stands out. Perhaps it's for the best that things don't turn out at all well for the tormented sweethearts, who are finally overwhelmed by a vast wave - the symphony ends mysteriously and effectively with a descent into the watery depths. Peterson-Berger (best-known, as a composer, for his piano miniatures) was a much-feared music critic in Sweden in the first three decades of the twentieth century, and he himself later came in for some merciless attacks (especially for his five symphonies). Part of this, though was surely pay-back, as the symphonies (especially symphony no 3, inspired by the landscape and folk music of Swedish Lappland), colorful, tuneful, and occasionally quite memorable, are lovely entertainment; beautifuly crafted. The second and third are my favorites: undemanding but delightful.
Rangstrom could never be accused of writing a symphonic masterpiece, but the first two of his four symphonies are quite striking: the first especially has a really forceful personality, with a memorable first movement second subject (even if it may sound a little Hollywood to our present-day ears). By contast the third symphony, 'Song Under the Stars' (all four symphonies have evcoative titles) is an incoherent mess to these ears, while the fourth, which has a virtuouso organ solo part, makes an impressive effect and has some very good ideas. It suffers a little from its oddly lopsided design, with a linked series of four short movements (2 to 5 minutes long) surrounding a mighty central Recitativo and Arioso that takes as long as all the remaining movements put together. A shame, because it's otherwise definitely Rangstrom's finest symphonic work.
One more Swede before I stop! Karl-Birger Blomdahl is best-known perhaps for his extraordinary space opera Aniara (set aboard a spaceship, of all places! I haven't heard it yet, is it any good?) being one of the first Swedish composers to get into serial techniques. I think his third and last symphony ('facets') is one of the finest of all Swedish symphonies (despite being serial, it's a work of dark, spellbinding fantasy, and much more accesible than some of his later works like In the Hall of Mirrors or Sisyphos). The first two symphonies are a vague memory at present, but I remember liking them both: all three certainly have more 'depth' than many other Swedish symphonies from the earlier generation.

There are loads more Swedish symphonies: the CD label Sterling has a seemingly endless list of obscure symphonists, but I haven't included several important Swedish symphonists here, including Hilding Rosenberg and Gosta Nystroem, as their works are sitting in a huge pile of 'to hear' discs. Anyone know them and care to comment?

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by fredbucket » Sat Oct 31, 2009 5:36 am

Technically of course, 1900 is not part of the 20th century but given that Sibley have just released the full score of the Scriabin Symphony No1 in E op.26 here https://urresearch.rochester.edu/instit ... onNumber=1 this is probably the best place for it.

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Fred

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by rob » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:35 am

Josef Suk's magnificent Asrael Symphony had been posted at IMSLP some time ago, but has now been unblocked: http://imslp.org/wiki/Symphony_No.2_%27 ... ,_Josef%29

Like Franz Schmidt's Fourth, I put this symphony at the same level as Mahler's Ninth.

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by oren segev » Mon Dec 07, 2009 5:17 am

Does anyone own and could post full score of
Prokofieff-symphony no 4?
Thanks in advance
Oren

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by near » Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:20 pm

Mahler's tenth symphony. Anyone have anything from it?

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by rob » Sun Apr 18, 2010 3:01 am

near wrote:Mahler's tenth symphony. Anyone have anything from it?
All far too copyright for this site sorry to say.

Plenty about the magnificent unfinished Tenth here: http://www.mahlerarchives.net/

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by alfor » Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:09 am

Dear Fred, dear rob,

you might be interested in recordings of a couple of symphonies by soviet composers, which I will post in the next days / weeks (sorry, no scores, but I can look out, if there is enough interest; much work to scan full orchetral scores, though). BTW a piano solo transcription of Mahler's tenth by Ronald Stevenson is available through the R. S. society.

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by lutoslawski » Wed May 05, 2010 2:46 pm

You guys think sorabji's Symphonies or symphonic work might be personal..? I mean comparing to the discussions of mahler or pettersson.
Well i guess shosti was a little in that too, or am i using another point of view ?

Do tell me ><

Tony

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by rob » Wed May 05, 2010 3:39 pm

lutoslawski wrote:You guys think sorabji's Symphonies or symphonic work might be personal..? I mean comparing to the discussions of mahler or pettersson.
Well i guess shosti was a little in that too, or am i using another point of view ?

Do tell me ><

Tony
The only orchestral work of Sorabji I have heard was a Piano Concerto played by Donna Amato on Dutch Radio (I think). Are there any purely orchestral works by Sorabji?

Not sure what you mean by 'personal'? The alternative is 'anonymous' I suppose. Composers of this sort of stature simply don't create anything that is 'anonymous' sounding. My experience is that it is usually lack of knowledge on the listener's part that makes them imagine something sounds 'anonymous'. Most composers take some getting to know, and then their 'finger-prints' become extremely obvious - sometimes even a single chord might be enough to identify a composer.

So, what was the question again?

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Re: Twentieth Century Symphonies

Post by Timtin » Thu May 06, 2010 12:41 pm

rob wrote: The only orchestral work of Sorabji I have heard was a Piano Concerto played by Donna Amato on Dutch Radio (I think).
Are there any purely orchestral works by Sorabji?
Alistair Hinton's 2003 article in La Folia is quite interesting.
http://www.lafolia.com/archive/hinton/h ... rabji.html

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