Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg was self-taught and made a living for much of his career as an electrical engineer and patent official. His nine symphonies are only sporadically played outside Scandinavia, but between the world wars they were quite familiar in both Britain and the U.S., and their revival is probably overdue. Although longer than the rest of the works on the album, the curiously named Symphony No. 6, Op. 31 ("Dollar Symphony"), is an odd and not really typical work. It was completed in 1928 for a contest mounted by the Columbia record label on the 100th anniversary of Schubert's death, calling for a work in the spirit of Schubert's music. Atterberg obliged with a rather lightweight piece absolutely jam-packed with tunes and took home the $10,000 first prize, a handsome paycheck indeed at the time, with the approval of a jury that included such big names as Alexander Glazunov, critic Donald Francis Tovey, and conductor Walter Damrosch. More typical of Atterberg's style is the Symphony No. 4, Op. 14 ("Sinfonia piccola") of 1918, an elegant little combination of neo-classic spareness and Swedish folk melody. En värmlandsrapsodi, Op. 36, also makes use of Swedish materials, and it could serve as a fresh curtain raiser for any symphonic concert. The Suite No. 3, Op.19/1, arranged from incidental music to a play by Maeterlinck, is a bit hard to get a grip on at this remove, but in general the performances by Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, recorded in Super Audio sound in the symphony's superb concert hall, have just the kind of breezy lightness that 's desirable for this rather underrated composer. A good offbeat choice for aficionados of the neoclassic period.
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