ATTERBERG:  Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1.  Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor, Op. 37.  Ballade and Passacaglia, Op. 38.
Love Derwinger, pianist; Radio Philharmonie Hannover des NDR/Ari Rasilainen, cond.

cpo 999 732 (F) (DDD) TT:  54:53

cpo's Atterberg cycle under the baton of Ari Rasilainen continues engagingly with two works for piano and orchestra, plus an orchestral bonus "on a Theme in the Swedish Folk Style" (rather than "Tone," as the original has been translated here). The soloist is 35-year-old Love (that's"Lo-vuh") Derwinger, who debuted at 16 in the Liszt Second Concerto and specializes in contemporary and chamber music as well as keyboard standards, albeit selectively. His playing is stylistically assured, characterful, and tonally ingratiating. The Op. 1 Rhapsody, dated 1908-09, was the composer's first official work, but any similarity to Bartók's ends with their shared title and opus number, proximity of composition, and length (10:25). It is a backward-looking work with a gently melodic central portion, revised by the composer in 1912 and again in 1956, which is the version recorded here. The composer himself thought that a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade, the second movement in particular, influenced Rhapsody. Likelier antecedents would seem to be the Grieg Concerto and Strauss' Burleske. In the event, it is an ensemble rather than a conventionally soloistic work, with a speed-up coda.

The B-flat minor Piano Concerto in three movements, Op. 37, was composed between 1927 and 1935. The annotator, Michael Kube, suggests that "Atterberg's choice of key...points to the corresponding Piano Concerto, Op. 23, by Tchaikovsky, which also served as a point of reference, at least in outline, for Robert Fuchs (1880), Wilhelm Stenhammar (1893), and Felix von Rather (1901)." The latter three, maybe—I've heard Stenhammer's without remembering it —but the Atterberg concerto is flat-out Rachmaninovian, although short on the Russian's soloistic bravura. Not only are the Second and Third Concertos present but even the failed Fourth of 1926; it amazes me than anyone could have missed their influence. Atterberg has his own voice, nonetheless, and his Piano Concerto is commended to collectors of 20th-century, between-wars Romanticism. The slow movement in particular is a treasure, even if Grieg joins Rachmaninov in the orchestra from time to time.

Ballad and Passacaglia is a contemporaneous piece, composed in 1936 and introduced at Stockholm in September 1937 with Eugene Ormandy conducting! Later on, Bruno Walter and Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt led Swedish performances of it, and Eulenberg published a pocket score.

This 10-minute piece manages to be both formally strict and expressively charming, not to say naive. The Hannover Radio Orchestra and Rasilainen, who previously collaborated in cpo's recording of the Atterberg Third and Sixth Symphonies, mesh finely and have been vividly recorded in what is an ongoing cycle of the composer's music. This addition may be, for conservative listeners, the most ingratiating of four to date.