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CD Review

Hugo Alfvén

The Symphonies & Rhapsodies

  • Suite "Bergakungen", Op. 37
  • Drapa for Large Orchestra "In Memoriam King Oscar II", Op. 27
  • En skärgårdssägen, Op. 20
  • Suite "Gustav Adolf II", Op. 49
  • Swedish Rhapsody #1, Op. 19 "Midsummer Vigil"
  • Swedish Rhapsody #2, Op. 24 "Uppsala"
  • Swedish Rhapsody #3, Op. 47 "Dalarhapsodien"
  • Symphony #1 in F minor, Op. 7
  • Symphony #2 in D Major, Op. 11
  • Symphony #3 in E Major, Op. 23
  • Symphony #4 in C minor, Op. 39 "Från havsbandet"
  • Symphony #5 in A minor, Op. 54
  • The Prodigal Son
  • Uppenbarelsekantat "Revelation Cantata", Op. 31
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
BIS CD-1478/80 344m DDD
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BIS have been repackaging their earlier recorded symphony cycles for some time now and now it is Hugo Alfvén's turn. These excellent recordings had been issued on single full price discs with the same fillers but this time they are being offered at five for the price of three, an excellent bargain in my opinion.

Alfvén's music is full of romantic allusions and is permeated with several influences from the Northern hemisphere replete with legend. The famous Swedish Rhapsodies have received good outings on tape before but Järvi conducts with evident spirit and he is rather brilliantly backed up by the Royal Stockholm Orchestra. When one compares to Bjarte Engeset on Naxos, Järvi really comes up trumps, especially in the Third Rhapsody.

The symphonies also benefit from Järvi's knowledge in this repertoire and BIS' outstanding sonics. The first three are fairly straightforward works rather in the mould of Svendsen and Halvorsen with burgeoning first movements and exciting finales and they are pretty much unbeatable in Järvi's hands. The Fourth, carrying the descriptive title, 'From the Outermost Skerries' is in one long movement and there are no separate tracks making it one 45 minute listen. The Fifth is also very well conceived and lasts just over three quarters of an hour too and this time, it is in four movements tracked separately, at least. Again, Järvi is a fine interpreter bringing out the character and colour of these expansive works.

Collectors new to Alfvén's music will definitely enjoy the 'Prodigal Son' and 'A Tale from the Archipelago' which are very beautiful works all round. At this price, this set is definitely worth a listen and should also be the standard recommendation for Alfvén's symphonic music for many years to come.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech