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A composer of extremes,
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This review is from: Sinfonia Del Mare (Audio CD)
From the Tempest / Songs By the Sea / Sinfonia Del Mare
To say that Gösta Nystroem was a composer of extremes is not out of place. His symphonies can be described as having elements of lyricism and pastoral beauty as well as anger, rebellion and anxiety. In short, he shares many of the conflicts of modern 20th Century composers. His anger is not as extreme as either Tubin or Holmboe, and his lyricism is not as extreme as Alfven or Atterberg. He was a painter, working in Paris in the 20s, and his style was most certainly affected by the musical and artistic climate he discovered there.
Nystroem's Sinfonia del mare is not as lyrical as the title might suggest. It arose from a period of inactivity when he served as a museum curator and later traveled to Italy. While he sought to refresh his artistic palate, he was plagued by illness. The frustration colored this work; it is not comparable to Debussy. There are two fine recordings of this work: one conducted by Svetlanov with the Swedish Radio Symphony (Musica Sveciae), and a new recording conducted by Christoph Konig with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra (Bis). I prefer the latter because the work is conveyed as an uneasy mix of hostile and tranquil seas, giving the work a more relevant, contemporary point of view. It is rather strange that the Malmo Symphony does not sound as rich and reverberant as the recent Schmidt symphonies on Naxos. The Mezzo soloists on these CDs are both fine, insightful singers.
The Konig disc includes a pivotal work, the Sinfonia Breve, a more astringent, urgent work and considered a landmark in contemporary Swedish music. Konig's thrust and fire are appropriate and will hopefully generate new interest in this neglected composer.
Svetlanov features Nystroem's Songs by the Sea, a more lyrical piece than the Sinfonia del mare, written a few years preceding. The contribution by the mezzo, Charlotte Hellekant, is wonderful - dramatic and soulful. Svetlanov accompanies lovingly. I would not be without either disc.