Tuesday, August 04, 2015

One picture is worth a thousand words

That photo* of Ture Rangström will probably do more to bring his music to a wider audience than anything I can write. However I will offer some nuanced advocacy, but keep it to considerably less than one thousand words. Ture Rangström was born in Stockholm in 1884 and died in 1947. He came to composing late and did not have a formal musical training, although Hans Pfitzner was among those who he turned to for guidance. At the age of 26 he was awarded the Swedish state composer's scholarship and Jean Sibelius considered him "head and shoulders above any other Swedish composer". The young composer met and was influenced by the ageing August Strindberg; Rangström's three hundred songs include settings of Strindberg and his First Symphony is sub-titled "August Strindberg in Memoriam".

Despite the feline-friendly photo, Rangström was considered to be the enfant terrible of his generation of Swedish composers. When his early orchestral work Dityramb was conducted in Stockholm by Sibelius' brother-in-law Armas Järnefelt critics found the work unacceptably modern, and as a result the young composer's work disappeared from Swedish concerts for some years. Although Rangström admired Sibelius, Sinding and Nielsen, he developed his own robust and abrasive post-Romantic style, and this resulted in him being dubbed Sturm und Drangström by his contemporaries . He composed four symphonies; the first two are well-crafted, but the mature Third and Fourth symphonies, composed in 1929 and 1936 respectively, are the most notable. The Fourth for orchestra and organ was taken up by Kurt Atteberg in a truncated version.

We are fortunate to have excellent recordings of Ture Rangström's four symphonies plus his orchestral Intermezzo drammatico, Dityramb and Varhymn (Spring Hymn)**. Michail Jurowski recorded the symphonies with the Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra for CPO in the 1990s, and the 3 CD set can be found at budget price. As Kaikhosru Sorabji told us, talk about immortal masterpieces is rather ridiculous. Overgrown Path readers are wise enough to make up their own minds on the merits of Ture Rangström's symphonies. So I will simply point out that they can be auditioned via YouTube, with the Third and Fourth recommended as starting points. Rangström's links with Sibelius and Nielsen make him, like Robert Simpson, an excellent discovery to be shared in the anniversary year of those two senior Scandinavian composers. It is just a great pity that our leading conductors and orchestras don't see it that way.

* Header archive photo appears in the impressive documentation for CPO's Rangström symphony box, but no date or attribution is given for the image. It was extensively digitally manipulated by me to make the quality acceptable for use on the blog.
** Varhymn is an eight minute Adagio composed for the thirtieth anniversary of Strindberg's death which would make an excellent alternative to the ubiquitous Nimrod, Barber Adagio and Mahler Adagietto when reflective music is required.
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1 comment:

Graeme said...

A decade ago, it was quite common for Swedish singers to give one of his songs as an encore. Barbara Bonney included some of his songs on her cds of Nordic repertoire. As usual, I wonder why we do not hear more Rangstrom and less Schubert. And now that the Wigmore Hall is doing a 2 year "celebration" of Schubert, I wonder all the more. Spare me the Schubert! I just went through the Radio3 immersion....and I hated it. I do not want to hear Schubert at every hour of the day. i would prefer never to hear a note the guy wrote ever again.