ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
LARS-ERIK LARSSON - SYMPHONIES 1 & 2


LARS-ERIK LARSSON - SYMPHONY NO. 1, OP. 2 - SYMPHONY NO. 2, OP. 17 - HANS-PETER FRANK (CONDUCTOR) - HELSINGBORG SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - BIS CD426

Lars-Erik Larsson was a Swedish composer who lived from 1908 to 1986, and although he studied with Alban Berg and later in life composed using techniques based on Schoenberg's twelve-note system, he is better known today for his rather traditional symphonies and his short-form pastoral tone poems like "A Winter's Tale", a very melodic, descriptive, little masterpiece, with a typically Nordic sound.

Symphony No. 1 was written at the age of 19 as part of his composition studies in Stockholm, and is a fresh, bucolic, Sibelius-tinged work, that shows an ease of writing that almost sounds juvenile in it's style and instrumentation, but also displays deep imagination and lyricism.

Symphony No. 2, on the other hand, written 10 years later and deeply criticized for it's conservatism, shows a more experienced and more serious side of Larsson. The first movement is based mostly on one very memorable melody that is masterfully tossed around from one group of instruments to the next, and is given a semi-fugual treatment, constantly weaving in and out of the orchestral fabric to great effect. The slow middle movement is typically charming and bucolic in nature.

The final movement, in my opinion, is the clincher. It is what elevates this symphony to the next level. It is without a doubt one of the best examples of how, when given a different treatment, a piece of music can undergo such dramatic changes. The main melody here is the theme from the first movement, but this time around instead of sounding bold and optimistic, it has been given a completely different aura, by turning it into a dark funeral march. The lilt and freedom have been replaced by gravity and stoicism, advancing with determined courage until the very end. Great listening!

Jean-Yves Duperron