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Melchers: Symphony In D Minor; La Kermesse; Elegie

Melchers: Symphony In D Minor; La Kermesse; Elegie

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Swedish composer Melcher Melchers (1882–1961) has been largely forgotten by music history. Melchers studied composition in Paris and his circle of friends included, among others, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Guillaume Apollinaire, Erik Satie, and members of Les Six. Among the Nordic composers he had the biggest impact on the French music life but his aesthetics in music were quite conservative: d’Indy, Chausson and César Franck were his greatest influences. This album by the Gävle Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jaime Martín includes Melchers’ magnum opus, his finely crafted Symphony in D minor, Op. 19 together with world première recordings of two symphonic poems.


Melcher Melchers' music can be described as traditional with a French accent. Initially he gravitated towards German Late Romanticism, but the French influence exerted a decisive pull, and he became influenced by César Franck, Debussy, Ravel, Satie and Les Six. His compositions include a symphony, symphonic poems, a violin concerto, two piano concertos string quartet, sonatas for violin and cello and twenty songs.

The disc opens with two strikingly contrasting symphonic poems, each receiving their world premiere recordings. The first was inspired by a painting by Peter Paul Rubens titled La Kermesse (1635–1638). It depicts an exuberant festival in the Flemish countryside. Melchers captures the atmosphere to perfection in this lighthearted, ebullient score. There are children playing, people dancing and food and wine flowing in abundance. The rhythmic abandon and colorful orchestration vividly convey the joie de vivre of the scene.

Élégie couldn’t be more different. Written a year before La Kermesse in 1919 it’s dedicated to the memory of the composer’s mother who had recently died. It didn’t, however, receive a premiere until 1924, when it was performed under the baton of Georg Schnéevoigt. Melchers employs dark, sombre sonorites to convey the solemn nature of the subject matter. A static quality pervades the music.

The three-movement Symphony in D minor is Melchers most important composition. Scored for a large orchestra, the work was written in 1925. The composer entered it for a competition a year later organized by the Stockholm Concert Society for the inauguration of a new concert hall in the city. It took second place to Kurt Atterberg’s vocal work Sången. From its first performance it elicited a positive response from the critics. The opening movement is the most extensive of the three. It brims over with drama and powerful climaxes. The contrasting lyrical moments convey an enchanted world of bucolic idyll. A beautiful slow movement overflows with melancholy and wistful regret. The finale recalls the festive mood of La Kermesse, joyous, optimistic and uplifting.

The Gävle Symphony Orchestra under Jaime Martín offer spirited and persuasive performances of these attractive works. They’ve been captured in the best possible sound.

-- MusicWeb International (Stephen Greenbank)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Ondine
    • UPC/Barcode: 0761195141823
    • Item Number: ODE 1418-2