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Kurt Atterberg

Kurt Atterberg

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Kurt Magnus Atterberg was a Swedish
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 composer. He is best known for his symphonies, operas and ballets. Atterberg once said that: "The Russians, Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

, Reger
Max Reger
Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger was a German composer, conductor, pianist, organist, and academic teacher.-Life:...

 were my ideals." His music combines their influences with Swedish folk tunes.


Atterberg was born in Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries. Situated on the west coast of Sweden, the city proper has a population of 519,399, with 549,839 in the urban area and total of 937,015 inhabitants in the metropolitan area...

 as the son of the engineer Anders Johan Atterberg (1845-1926) and nephew of chemist Albert Atterberg
Albert Atterberg
Albert Mauritz Atterberg was a Swedish chemist and agricultural scientist who created the Atterberg limits that are commonly referred to by geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists today. In Sweden he is equally known for creating the Atterberg grainsize scale, which remains the one in...

. He studied cello and would later occasionally play the cello in orchestras. He published his first work, a Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 1, in 1908. In 1910, he sent the Rhapsody and an incomplete version of the Symphony No. 1 in B minor, soon published as Op. 3, to the Stockholm Conservatory for admission. He studied composition and orchestration with Andreas Hallén
Andreas Hallén
Johan Andreas Hallén was a Swedish Romantic composer, conductor and music teacher, primarily known for his operas, which were heavily influenced by Richard Wagner’s music dramas.-Operas:*Harald der Wiking...

 there while simultaneously receiving instruction at the Royal Institute of Technology
Royal Institute of Technology
The Royal Institute of Technology is a university in Stockholm, Sweden. KTH was founded in 1827 as Sweden's first polytechnic and is one of Scandinavia's largest institutions of higher education in technology. KTH accounts for one-third of Sweden’s technical research and engineering education...

, earning a masters' degree in engineering in 1911.

From 1912 to 1968 Atterberg worked at the Swedish Patent and Registration Office
Swedish Patent and Registration Office
The Swedish Patent and Registration Office is a Swedish government agency based in Stockholm and Söderhamn. The agency is in charge of patents, trademarks and industrial designs. The Office acts as Patent Cooperation Treaty authority, i.e. International Searching Authority and International...

, becoming head of a division there in 1937. In 1912, he made his conducting debut conducting his own Symphony No. 1. In 1916, he was appointed to Maestro of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

, a position he held until 1922. His Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 7 was premiered by the Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n violinist Alma Moodie
Alma Moodie
Alma Templeton Moodie was an Australian violinist who established an excellent reputation in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. She was regarded as the foremost female violinist during the inter-war years, and she premiered violin concertos by Kurt Atterberg, Hans Pfitzner and Ernst Krenek...

 on 6 November 1919, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Max von Schillings
Max von Schillings
Max von Schillings was a German conductor, composer and theatre director. He was chief conductor at the Berlin State Opera from 1919 to 1925....

. From 1919 to 1957, he was a music critic for the Stockholmstidningen.

In 1924, Atterberg helped found the Society of Swedish Composers and the Swedish Performing Rights Society (an organization similar to ASCAP
American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is an American not-for-profit performance-rights organization that protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music, whether via a broadcast or live performance, and compensating them...

 in America). In 1926 he became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music
Royal Swedish Academy of Music
The Royal Swedish Academy of Music or Kungl. Musikaliska Akademien, founded in 1771 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies in Sweden...

 and was secretary of that organization from 1940 to 1953.

While composing an opera about the Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s, Härvard Harpolekare, Atterberg also wrote a "Sinfonia Piccola" (Symphony No. 4 in G minor, Op. 14) inspired by an anthology of Swedish folk tunes published in 1875.

For the Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

 centenary in 1928, the Columbia Gramophone Company sponsored a competition for a symphony completing or inspired by Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony
Symphony No. 8 (Schubert)
Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor , commonly known as the "Unfinished Symphony" , D.759, was started in 1822 but left with only two movements known to be complete, even though Schubert would live for another six years. A scherzo, nearly completed in piano score but with only two pages...

, and Atterberg won the first prize of $10,000 with his Symphony No. 6. The symphony was recorded by Sir Thomas Beecham
Thomas Beecham
Sir Thomas Beecham, 2nd Baronet CH was an English conductor and impresario best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras. He was also closely associated with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras...

 in 1928 and Arturo Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor. One of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century, he was renowned for his intensity, his perfectionism, his ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his photographic memory...

 on November 21, 1943, (during an NBC Symphony Orchestra
NBC Symphony Orchestra
The NBC Symphony Orchestra was a radio orchestra established by David Sarnoff of the National Broadcasting Company especially for conductor Arturo Toscanini...

 broadcast concert). Atterberg himself also conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
The Berlin Philharmonic, German: , formerly Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester , is an orchestra based in Berlin, Germany. In 2006, a group of ten European media outlets voted the Berlin Philharmonic number three on a list of "top ten European Orchestras", after the Vienna Philharmonic and the...

  in a recording of the symphony, which was released on 78-rpm discs. He praised Toscanini's performance when he heard the recorded broadcast.

As had Beethoven and Antonín Dvořák
Antonín Dvorák
Antonín Leopold Dvořák was a Czech composer of late Romantic music, who employed the idioms of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvořák’s own style is sometimes called "romantic-classicist synthesis". His works include symphonic, choral and chamber music, concerti, operas and many...

, Atterberg composed nine symphonies. His last symphony, composed in 1956, features soloists and chorus. On February 22, 2005, Cpo Records released a boxed set of recordings of all the symphonies, with Finnish conductor Ari Rasilainen (born 1959) conducting four different German orchestras.

Atterberg died in Stockholm on 15 February 1974. He is buried in the Norra begravningsplatsen (Northern Cemetery), in Stockholm.

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