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Après la découverte des compositeurs suédois Stenhammar, Alfven et Atterberg, il est bon de découvrir les 4 symphonies de cet autre compositeur suédois Ture Rangström (1884-1947) qui, comme Atterberg, est considéré comme représentant la "jeune génération" de compositeurs suédois, par rapport aux "aînés" Peterson-Berger, Stenhammar et Alfven. A la première audition, ses 4 symphonies sont moins directement séduisantes que celles des "aînés" cités. Mais après avoir traduit de l'anglais (dommage que CPO ne respecte plus les auditeurs francophones !) une notice complète, et après au moins deux autres auditions des symphonies, celles-ci m'ont apparu originales, plus modernes sans être dissonantes, somptueuses avec un fond nordique mélancolique, aidées par un excellent enregistrement chez CPO donnant la profondeur d'une salle de concert : - La symphonie n°1 est, avec sa marche funèbre médiane, dédiée au poète suédois Strindberg - La symphonie n°2, dédiée à Stenhammer, est la symphonie pastorale du compositeur. La Suède est représentée en musique (paysages, légendes épiques). - la symphonie n°3 est en un seul mouvement : C'est un tableau marin (comme la symphonie n°4 de Alfven), un voyage nocturne sur une mer calme ou ...agressive ! - La symphonie n°4, avec orgue, est à la fois plus "archaïque" dans sa forme (suite orchestrale du 18ème siècle , avec passacaille et toccata) et plus moderne dans ses sonorités. L'ambiance y est médiévale, "gothique", d'un lugubre fascinant, anticipant de 40 années le rock progressif de Genesis (albums "Trespass", "Nursery Cryme"et "Foxtrott") ou de Ange (album "Le Cimetière des Arlequins") !
I first became aware of Rangström's music when I came across a vinyl LP of his second symphony back in the 1980s. This rapidly disappeared so I didn't get a chance to investigate his music until I came across this set.
Perhaps not as well known as Nielsen or Sibelius, his music is nonetheless interesting. This is one of the CPO complete sets of music by lesser known composers, played very well by the Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra and recorded very clearly.
On occasion the musical invention seems to fall a little short, hence only the 4-star rating (another minor downside was that the cardboard slipcase was something of a tight fit). But these are only minor quibbles - 20th century symphonic music fans can investigate this set with safety.
The previous reviewer hit most of the highlights and backstory. This is excellent, compelling music-making. The fact that each symphony is more of a dramatic work than an example of hard-core symphonic development doesn't take away from Rangstrom's achievement in the slightest. If that makes these works detectably "stream-of-consciousness," so what? Spontaneity is hardly a crime if an ordering principle still rules over the soundscape, even if that ordering principle isn't conventional sonata-allegro form or multi-layered contrapuntal development.
I wasn't expecting the one-movement 3rd Symphony to come across as a satisfying entity-in-itself, but I was surprised at how well it cohered. The 1st and 2nd symphonies are outstanding as well, not to mention the set of miniatures (the intermezzi) and other miscellaneous works included to round out the package. Where I expected great things -- the orchestra-plus-organ 4th symphony with the enhanced instrumental palette -- I came away disappointed. I think it's the weakest piece in this box set. It didn't help matters any that as I listened to the 4th symphony's Toccata movement, I immediately recognized it from Segerstam's "Earquake" album, where that movement received a far more incisive, snarling interpretation. This version's Toccata appeared lackluster in comparison, compounded by the too-smooth voicings chosen for the pipe organ.
That all the works are imbued with a deeply Swedish emotive core goes without saying -- this is nationalism on a grand scale. Without a doubt, Ture Rangstrom is unjustly overlooked as a major 20th century symphonist. This box set was worth every penny, and is recommended without qualification. As I work through the Kurt Atterburg symphonies, I hope to get a comparative feel of how these two divergent near-contemporaries approached the matter of Swedish music. (I have no dog in that fight -- I'm American, of German heritage.)
I began listening to Ture Rangstrom's symphonic music over thirty years ago from a couple of EMI LPs. I am happy to report that these newer recordings on CD are excellent. Michail Jurowski with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra knows what the "Nordic" sound is all about. If you like the symphonies of Sibelius and Nielson, you will love this three CD set.
After purchasing the amazing Atterberg boxed set, I next went to the Rangstrom set. These weren't as immediately approachable as the Atterberg symphonies but the more I listen to them, the better I like them and the more I find. There is strength and profundity here which, to me, wasn't immediately apparent. Repeated listening and finding new things at each listen, is supposedly one of the signs of great music, and Rangstrom's music qualifies in my opinion.
If you don't know these works but like the symphonies of Kurt Atterberg, you may like these as well. (Both composers are omitted from all mention in latest Penguin Guide, which should tell you something.) But they are noisy--lots of pounding drums and clashing cymbals, and one could argue about whether this music is even in good taste. (Don't expect Faure or Mendelssohn.) The performances and recordings are just fine and there is no real competition anyway, so ultimately the music itself is the deciding factor. Fans of late romantic Swedish symphonies will want to check these out.