Neeme Järvi

Hugo Alfvén: Symphony No. 5; Suite from 'Bergakungen'; Elegy from 'Gustav II Adolf'

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The furtherance of Hugo Alfvén's reputation outside Sweden depends largely on important releases like this 1992 CD from BIS, the world-premiere recording of the Symphony No. 5 in its complete version. This symphony, Alfvén's long labor of love, was composed between 1942 and 1953, but underwent revisions until the composer died in 1960. For a long time, only the first movement was performed with regularity, and the remaining three movements were deemed inferior or too problematic to be played at all. On hearing the four movements together at last, it is clear that Alfvén's final symphony is indeed flawed, for it is far too reliant on the melodramatic music drawn from the ballet suite Bergakungen (helpfully provided here for comparison). But if judged on its strengths -- its rich orchestration, unabashed emotionalism, abundant lyricism, and formal unity -- the Symphony No. 5 has much to offer and is likely to please many fans of late-late-Romanticism. Neeme Järvi and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra devote considerable energy to make this performance as rewarding as possible, and give the symphony great propulsion, warmth, and color. The Suite from Bergakungen and the Elegy from Gustav II Adolf are interesting filler pieces, but much less endearing than the symphony. BIS offers terrific sound.

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