A Värmland Rhapsody: “Around the Long Shores of Lake Löven” Op. 36 for orchestra
(b. Gothenburg, Sweden, 12 December 1887 – d. Stockholm, 15 February 1974)
A Värmland Rhapsody: … Around the Long Shores of Lake Löven…, Op. 36
Premiere: 20 November 1933, in a live radio broadcast from Stockholm
Duration: ca. 9 min.
Kurt Atterberg’s Värmland Rhapsody was commissioned in honor of the seventy-fifth birthday of Selma Lagerlöf, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature (1909) and a figure who has long been associated with geography. Her children’s book and geography primer The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson (1906–07) has been known to generations of Swedish children as well as international audiences; from 1991 to 2015, the back of the Swedish twenty-crown note featured an image of tiny Nils sitting astride a flying goose above the flat landscape of southern Sweden at the beginning of their journey northwards. A large engraving of Lagerlöf herself was on the front of the note, together with two brief excerpts from her novel Gösta Berling’s Saga (1891), one of many works set in her native province of Värmland. One quotation speaks of real-life Lake Fryken (which she renames Lake Löven in the story), a chain of three lakes close to her childhood home: “The lake has its sources far in the north, a glorious land for a lake.” Atterberg gives a nod to this same lake in the subtitle to his rhapsody: “… Around the Long Shores of Lake Löven…” Geography exerts a double force upon Atterberg’s music, providing literary inspiration rooted deep in the heart of Värmland as well as concrete musical material in the form of at least ten folktunes traditionally associated with the region.
Although he is little known today, Kurt Atterberg was a leading figure in many aspects of Swedish musical life through much of the twentieth century. After initial training as a cellist and a brief period studying composition with Andreas Hallén, he amassed an impressive compositional catalogue of six operas, nine symphonies, nine orchestral suites, and several concertos, in addition to other works for orchestra and smaller configurations. His long-time role as music critic for the newspaper Stockholms-Tidningen (1919–1957) afforded him regular opportunities to speak in a public forum. On the administrative side, Atterberg helped found the Swedish Society of Composers (1918) and the Swedish Performing Rights Society (1923), serving as president of each organization for many years. Furthermore, he was secretary of the Royal Academy of Music from 1940 to 1953. Despite his central position in Swedish musical culture, however, Atterberg’s primary studies were in civil engineering, and he spent his long career in the National Patent and Registration Office: hired at age twenty-four (1912), he held the position of Division Head from 1936 until his retirement at eighty-one (1968). Atterberg is survived by an astonishing amount of archival material, including about ten thousand letters and fifteen hundred pages of memoirs, which are preserved in the Music and Theater Library in Stockholm. …
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