By Matt F.
Thank god for Kurt Atterberg. And for that matter let’s throw in Neeme Jarvi and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (the city of Atterberg’s birth) too, but mostly just Kurt Atterberg.
At a time when composers were writing academic music with the heads Atterberg was, without shame, writing music with his heart. Big, bold and brassy, had he been born 75 years earlier, he could’ve given Bruckner the boot. While the influence of German Romanticism may be inescapable, unlike his predecessors Atterberg never gives off the air of tortured brilliance. It’s almost as if he heard Mahler or Strauss and thought to himself “okay, I get it, I see what you’re doing, but I will not put my soul through the grinder like that.”
His 2nd symphony starts us out, it’s youthful without being naive (he was about 24 at the time). Fun and spirited, think Brahms, but without all the guilt or perhaps Schumann without the ennui. His 8th symphony (written 31 years later in 1944) starts with some Wagnerian panache, but almost in reverse; where Wagner’s music would start small and grow large and weighty, Atterberg starts huge and then evolves into scuttling effervescent melodies. Highly recommended for fans of the golden age of Romantic symphonies.