Hilding Rosenberg - Symphonies 3 & 6

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HILDING ROSENBERG - SYMPHONIES 3 & 6 - Mario Venzago (Conductor) - Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra - 7318590013830 - BIS CD1383

Here again we have a prime example of an unjustly neglected composer. I do not understand how it is that imaginative and powerful music like the music of Hilding Rosenberg (1892-1985) does not come in contact with microphones more often than it does. He was a prolific composer with over a hundred works to his credit, for all types and combinations of instruments, singers, choirs, piano, organ, etc ... including cello concertos, piano concertos, violin concertos, 12 string quartets and 8 symphonies. But yet it seems that only a few of his works have ever been recorded and some of those on obscure labels. His string quartets have been recorded but don't seem to be readily available anymore, in certain countries anyway, and only the two symphonies found on this recording have been recorded before. He was highly respected in his native Sweden, and was always involved with important developments and musical activities of Sweden. Some of his early influences were Schoenberg, Sibelius and Stenhammar. I myself can't help but hear the sounds and techniques of Sibelius, Tubin and Hartmann within his music.

The Symphony No. 6 (Sinfonia Semplice) does begin in a simple fashion, resembling a chamber work, but quickly builds to become a full bore symphonic statement. Rosenberg's firm grasp on orchestration, especially his detailed use of the woodwinds section, combined with a keen sense of momentum and development, creates an atmosphere within the music that is full of tension and drama. Although he was around 60 years old when he composed this symphony, it was written with a young punk attitude, but with respect for tradition. The work ends on a mysterious note, as quietly as it started.

The Symphony No. 3 (The Four Ages of Man), written in 1939, is a depiction of life from childhood to manhood. It was originally longer and included recitations of involved text passages from novels by Romain Rolland. In 1943, for unspecified reasons, Rosenberg revised the work and removed the texts, the movement titles and the symphony's subtitle, and ever since it has simply been known as Symphony No. 3. Created during wartime, it has a darker tinge and a more violent undercurrent to it. Nonetheless it is a superb example of harmonic craftmanship and symphonic construction. The slow movement which again uses the woodwinds to great effect, builds to a powerful climax of impressive force. The following Allegro marcato is full of rhythmic energy and punchy elements that create a sense of constant movement and change. The final movement caps the symphony with a master's touch. All in all, this is a symphony to rival any great 20th century symphonies.

The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mario Venzago perform these great works with energy and a sense of purpose. And again the BIS recording is demonstration class. I certainly hope that there are more Rosenberg symphonies on the way from these forces.

Jean-Yves Duperron