Program 89
"The Romantic Patent Office Manager"

MUSIC: clip from Kurt Atterberg’s Piano Quintet in C Major, Op. 31 performed by the New Budapest Quartet with Ilona Prungi, piano [Marco Polo 8.223405, track 1]  [under the following]  

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and for the next hour we’re going to explore the music of “The Romantic Patent Office Manager.” That is to say the unduly neglected music of the Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg, who lived from 1887 until 1974. I’m happy you were able to join me for what is likely to be a real compact discovery for you.

Kurt Atterberg  was an interesting guy. He followed two very different careers simultaneously. At the same time that he studied music composition he went to a technical college in Stockholm. He learned to play the cello while qualifying as a civil engineer in 1910, the year before his début as a conductor. At this time he also started working at the Patent Office in Stockholm.

In addition to writing and playing music, Atterberg was one of the founders of the Swedish Composer’s Association and served as its president from 1924 until 1947. He also helped start the Swedish Performing Rights Society, in which he occupied a similar position.  At the same time he was a productive composer whose works include five full-length operas, nine symphonies, five solo concertos and numerous symphonic poems and suites. All this even though he was employed full-time as office manager at the Patent Office. After 56 years of service there he retired in 1968, about the same time that he stopped composing music.

Atterberg’s Piano Concerto in B-flat Minor, Opus 37, is quite a romantic tour-de-force. He started working on it in 1927, but didn’t return to the first movement until 1933. This movement was then orchestrated and performed separately on the tenth anniversary of Swedish Radio in January, 1935. Later that year Atterberg composed the rest of the concerto.

We hear the entire piece now as performed by the American-born pianist, Dan Franklin Smith, with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra conducted by B. Tommy Andersson.

MUSIC: Atterberg: Piano Concerto in B-flat Minor, Opus 37  performed by the Gavle Symphony Orchestra conducted by B. Tommy Andersson; Dan Franklin Smith, pianist [Sterling CDS-1034-2, tracks 1, 2, 3]  [34:12]

B. Tommy Andersson led the Gävle Symphony Orchestra in Kurt Atterberg’s Piano Concerto in B-flat Minor, Opus 37. The pianist for this Sterling label CD was Dan Franklin Smith.

Dan Franklin Smith played this same piece at his Swedish début in 1998 at Stockolm’s Sofia Church.  Smith has performed in Norway, France, England, Germany, Bermuda, Taiwan, Puerto Rico and the U.S., where he was born. He has been featured on numerous radio broadcasts, but this is his début on Compact Discoveries.  I’m Fred Flaxman, and I’m pleased to be your guide this hour for the music of the Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg.

[one minute optional break not included in the total timing of the program]

Next a solo piano piece by Atterberg, his Phantom Waltz in C Major. This time we hear the Hungarian pianist Ilona Prunyi on a Marco Polo compact disc.

MUSIC: Atterberg: Valse Fantôme in C Major (originally known as Valse monotone), performed by pianist Ilona Prunyi [Marco Polo 8.223404, track 6]  [5:33]

Pianist Ilona Prunyi performed Kurt Atterberg’s Phantom Waltz in C Major. This was on a Marco Polo compact disc.

You are listening to “The Romantic Patent Officer Manager” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. The reason for the title is that our featured composer this hour combined an almost life-long career in the Swedish Patent Office with an equally lifelong career as a musician, composer, conductor, music administrator and critic. I guess the word for that is “multi-talented.”

Here’s another example of Atterberg at his most romantic. It is the second movement of his 1925 Sonata in B Minor, Opus 27. Atterberg originally intended the work for his own instrument, the cello. But it was published in 1930 as a sonata for cello, viola or violin and piano. In this Marco Polo recording Eszter Pérényi is the violinist, Ilona Prunyi the pianist.

MUSIC: Atterberg: Sonata in B Minor forViolin and Piano, Op. 27, Eszter Pérényi, violin; Ilona Prunyi, piano [Marco Polo 8.223404, track 2] [6:54]

The second movement of Atterberg’s Sonata in B Minor, Opus 27.  Eszter Pérényi was the violinist; Ilona Prunyi, the pianist.

Atterberg wrote two Autumn Ballades that make up his Opus 15.  They were completed in 1918 and constitute the only original work Atterberg wrote for solo piano. The Phantom Waltz, which we heard earlier played on the piano, was originally written as orchestral incidental music for a play.

We’ll listen to the first Autumn Ballad now as performed by pianist Ilona Prunyi.

MUSIC: Atterberg: Höstballader (Autumn Ballad) No. 1 in B Minor for Piano played by Ilona Prunyi, piano [Marco Polo 8.223404, track 4] [4:59]

Ilona Prunyi on the piano and Kurt Atterberg’s Autumn Ballad No. 1 in B Minor. This was from a Marco Polo recording devoted to chamber music by Atterberg.

MUSIC: Atterberg: excerpt from Piano Quintet in C Major, Op. 31 with the New Budapest Quartet [Marco Polo 8.223405, track 1]  [under the following, continuing until 57:55]

I hope you enjoyed the music of Kurt Atterberg as much as I did and that this hour presented some true compact discoveries for you.

Your comments on this program or the series in general are most welcome at our website: There you’ll find descriptions of the programs, complete scripts with information on all the music played, a list of radio stations carrying the program, listener comments, Compact Discoveries articles, even a page on how your company or foundation can help underwrite the costs of producing and distributing the series.

I would like to thank Stephanie Low for introducing me to Atterberg’s Piano Concerto and the performances of Dan Franklin Smith.

Compact Discoveries is a registered trademark and production of Compact Discoveries, Inc. This program is made possible in part by the members of WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: up and fade out at 57:55

WFMT Announcer: This program is distributed by the WFMT Radio Network. [5 seconds]

Program Ends at 58:00

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