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W. Peterson-Berger: Symphony No. 2 / Violin Romance

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 23, 1999
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Product Details

  • Performer: Ulf Wallin
  • Composer: W. Peterson-Berger
  • Audio CD (March 23, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: CPO
  • ASIN: B00000ICM9
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,124 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942) is a real find. The Symphony is wonderful. But the Romance is one of those things that keeps running through your head. It alone is worth the price of the album.
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I have all the Peterson-Berger symphonies, but this is one of the best. As the other reviewer indicated, the gem in this cd is the Romance for Violin and Orchestra. It is a diamond in the rough. I had never heard this piece before, but now I have all three known interpretations.
The Romance begins with a harsh, somber melody that almost sounds like anguish. Then the seas part and the most beautiful melody that Petereson-Berger ever wrote is introduced. He really put his whole heart and emotions into this melody. Once you've heard it you'll never forget it. I wish more people would be able to hear this Romance as it is truly a forgotten classic, in my estimation.
This is an exceptional cd that should not be overlooked. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves Romantic music.
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Wilhelm Peterson-Berger belongs to what must be termed the golden age of Swedish music - indeed, he was one of the instigators - seeking to combine a late romantic musical language inspired by Wagner with Swedish folk music as treated by e.g. Söderman; think, perhaps, a mixture of Wagner and Grieg and you are on the right track, especially if you add in a little Schumann and French late romanticism. His brand of romanticism might have been considered relatively modern around the turn of the century but soon sounded rather reactionary, and Peterson-Berger did in no way attempt to keep up with musical developments. And while he might not be the most prominent or distinguished or original among this group of composers (that honor does, presumably, go to Stenhammar), CPO's series of his symphonies is still immensely valuable - highly appealing if slightly eclectic music with performances and a recorded sound to match.

His second symphony, subtitled "The Journey on Southernly Winds", is probably not the most distinguished of his symphonies - Peterson-Berger has usually been considered essentially a miniaturist, and whereas some of his symphonies (no. 3 in particular, perhaps) are really successful, his relationship with the larger forms remained problematic, and the second symphony underlines the problem - basically the forms are relatively simple, and Peterson-Berger had a clear disdain for counterpoint. So while the tunes are good, and there are many gorgeous and glorious features (interesting harmonies and scoring for instance) here, the work doesn't quite convince as anything resembling a symphonic whole. Still, there are few passages that are less than exciting, and it is overall a genuinely appealing and inventive work.
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Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942), according to the extensive notes to this CD, is a composer still revered in Sweden. I'll have to take their word for it since I'd never heard of him before hearing the Romance for violin and orchestra on the radio, the reason why I bought this recording. After listening to the whole thing my opinion of that particular piece hasn't changed--it's a charming vignette, alternating drama and lyricism in an appealing fashion, and a worthy alternative to more well-known examples of this genre by Beethoven and Dvorak. Ulf Wallin, the soloist, plays with secure tone and emotional eloquence--it would be good to hear him in standard repertory.

The two other short pieces, the early Oriental Dance and a Prelude to one of Peterson-Berger's operas, also make entertaining listening, melodious and colorfully orchestrated. That leaves the most ambitious work, the Second Symphony, which has an elaborate program about a journey southward to Italy and Greece, with liberal doses of ancient literary scenes. Irregular in form, most of the music is reminiscent of Mendelssohn, but without that composer's sure hand with form and harmonic direction. In this longer format, Peterson-Berger's developments tend to ramble, his orchestral climaxes coming too often for no particular purpose and almost always punctuated by blaring brass and heavy percussion. The lyrical moments in the first and second movements are lovely, but do not come often enough to offset the impression of a composer out of his creative depth, at least to this listener. I'll return to the Romance and to the shorter pieces on this disc--not this Symphony. It must be said that Michail Jurowski and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra play superbly throughout.
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We first heard the Romance in D Minor by chance on our New Zealand Radio Concert Programme and were very, very impressed so we bought this CD.
We were astonished when we played the other pieces - they were equally outstanding. And we had never heard of Peterson-Burger before. His compositions are so bright and melodic - not what we expected from Sweden ! This CD is worth its weight in gold.
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