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Atterberg, Kurt (Magnus)

stockholm swedish music jury

Atterberg, Kurt (Magnus), eminent Swedish composer; b. Gòteborg, Dec. 12, 1887; d. Stockholm, Feb. 15, 1974. He studied composition at the Stockholm Cons, with Hallen, and in Berlin with Schillings (1910–12). In 1913 he was appointed conductor at the Drama Theater in Stockholm, holding this post until 1922. In 1919 he began writing music criticism and continued to contribute to Stockholm newspapers until 1957. Concurrently he was also employed at the Swedish patent office (1912–68) and served as secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in Stockholm (1940–53). He was one of the founders of the Soc. of Swedish Composers in 1924, and was on its board until 1947. During all this time, he composed with inexhaustible energy, producing works in all genres in scores marked by precision of form and technique. Atterberg’s name attracted unexpected attention when he was declared winner of the ill-conceived Schubert Centennial Contest organized in 1928 by the Columbia Phonograph Co., with the declared intention to finish Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony . The entire venture was severely criticized in musical circles as an attempt to derive commercial advantage under the guise of an homage to a great composer. Rumors spread that Atterberg had deliberately imitated the style of composition of some members of the jury (Glazunov, Alfano, Nielsen) in order to ingratiate himself with them so as to secure the prize, but Atterberg denied any such suggestion, pointing out that he knew the names only of those in the jury from the Nordic zone, whereas the international membership comprised 10 national zones. Furthermore, the sym. he had submitted was written in a far more advanced style than Atterberg’s previous symphonic works and was certainly much more modern than any music by the jury members, using as it did such procedures as polytonality. There can be no doubt, however, that Atterberg was a master technician of his craft, and that his music had a powerful appeal. That it never gained a wider audience can be ascribed only to an unfathomable accident of world culture.

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