Joseph Dente – Symphony in D minor (1887)
I Andante (p. 3) – Allegro ma non troppo (p. 5)
II Scherzo, molto vivace e con brio (p. 45)
III Andante (p. 84)
IV Allegro vivace (p. 107)
Joseph Dente is one of the most important Swedish composers of the epoch between Franz Berwald and the masters who later became known as the national romantics such as Wilhelm Stenhammar, Hugo Alfvén, Ture Rangström, Kurt Atterberg, Oskar Lindberg or Wilhelm Peterson-Berger. In contrast to the latter, his œuvre never found a broader international resonance. As the son of a military kapellmeister, he received basic musical training from his father. He then became a violin pupil of the famous virtuoso Eduard d’Aubert (1813-73), who was later appointed concertmaster of the Royal Swedish Court Opera in Stockholm in 1864 and professor at the Royal Academy of Music there. Joseph Dente was already a member of the Royal Court Orchestra at the age of 15. His teacher in composition and theory was Otto Daniel Winge (1810-86). He then continued his violin studies with Hubert Léonard (1819-90) in Brussels. In 1867 Franz Berwald, who had been passed over all his life, was finally appointed composition teacher at the Royal Conservatory at the age of 71, and Dente began further studies with him, but Berwald died on April 5, 1868. In that year Dente became concertmaster of the Royal Court Orchestra, and from 1872 he was active as a conductor. Until the beginning of the 1870s he appeared as a violin soloist throughout Scandinavia, but also in Germany and France. In 1876 Dente began teaching theory at the Stockholm Conservatory, and from 1882 to 1903 he taught counterpoint, orchestration and composition there. His students included Wilhelm Stenhammar and Wilhelm Peterson-Berger. When Ludvig Norman (1831-85) retired in 1879, Dente became Royal Court Conductor in Stockholm as his successor until his retirement in 1885. Afterwards he continued conducting and led the symphony concerts of the Royal Court Opera Orchestra in 1890-91.
Joseph Dente wrote piano works (including ‘Ballad, Double Fugue und Spanish Dance’), chamber music (including two string quartets and an early piano quartet from 1866), songs, choral works, the one-act-opera ‘I Marocco’ (In Morocco, 1866) and orchestral works (apart from the present symphony a Symphonic Allegro in E-flat major (1867), a concert overture, a Violin Concerto [premiered in 1896], and a funeral march).
Joseph Dente completed his only symphony in D minor on March 11, 1887 in Stockholm. It premiered on 14 April 1888 under his direction at the festival concert of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Stockholm. In the autumn of the same year, the symphony was awarded 3rd prize in a composition competition of the Berlin Konzerthaus, in which 57 symphonies from all over Europe had been submitted. The first prize went to Georg Schumann, the second to Ferdinand Manns. All three prize-winning symphonies were performed in Berlin. In 1890 Dente’s Symphony was played again in Stockholm and was published in print in the same year (full score, parts, and piano reduction). The symphony is dedicated to the director of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and fellow composer, Albert Rubenson (1826-1901), “with gratitude for all the good advices for the following work”. Dente’s Symphony is a very lively and vibrant work, inspired in all its four movements and fresh in invention, perfectly crafted and shaped with precision. Dente saves the power of the trombones for the finale (an idea based on Beethoven’s model) in which there is no classical, conventional D major brightening even towards the end. Aesthetically closer to Mendelssohn and Schumann, Dente’s Symphony, as the historical link between his teacher Berwald and his pupil Stenhammar, is a substantial work that deserves to be performed more often, to which this first faithful reprint of its first edition would like to contribute.
Christoph Schlüren, July 2019
Performance material is available from the original publisher Musikaliska Konstföreningen, Stockholm