Kurt Atterberg (1887–1974)

Kurt Atterberg is the most renowned symphonist of the second generation in Sweden’s late-romantic era and a worthy successor to Wilhelm Stenhammar and Hugo Alfvén.


Born an December 12 to the engineer and inventor Anders Johan Atterberg and Elvira Uddman, the daughter of an outstanding male opera singer.

um 1895

First enthusiasm for Beethoven's sonatas in minor keys, Grieg's great Sonata in E minor, and Emil Sjögren's "Erotikon" pieces. Atterberg is supposed to begin piano lessons at seven together with his older sister, "but that was not right for a boy, and so I cried until I had no more tears left to weep".


Fascinated by Beethoven's Quartet op.59/2, which he hears in a concert by the Brussels String Quartet, Atterberg begins playing the violoncello. This experience also forms the point of departure for his own activities as a chamber musician.


He begins receiving instruction from Adolf Cords (a cellist in the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra) and undertakes his first serious attempt at composition, a movement for cello solo.


0n the completion of his secondary education, Atterberg begins composing concert literature, sonata movements, and a string quartet. In the fall he enrolls as a student in electrical engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.


Tor Aulin encourages Atterberg to join the highly regarded Mazérska Quartet Society (the forerunner of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra).


Atterberg composes his Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra op. 1 and String Quartet op. 2 and begins work on his Symphony No. 1.


Atterberg completes his Symphony No. 1 in B minor op. 3 and enrolls as a composition student under Andreas Hallén at the Conservatory of Music.


He receives a state music fellowship at the young age of twenty-four. During the summer he takes a study tour to Munich, and in December he receives his engineering diploma. He composes his Concert Overture op. 4 and begins work on his Symphony No. 2 in F major op. 6.


On January 10 Atterberg celebrates his first public performance as a conductor on the occasion of a symphony concert in Göteborg. On this evening he himself conducts the premieres of the Concert Overture and Symphony No. 1. Although he seems to have a very promising career ahead of him as a composer, he accepts a post at the Swedish Patent Office on May 16. This job goes on to guarantee him a secure income for the rest of his life. In the fall he makes a study tour to Berlin, and in December his Symphony No. 2 (two-movement version) is premiered in Göteborg.


Violin Concerto op. 7 and incidental music to "Jefta" (Suite No. 1) for the Stockholm Dramatic Theater. The Symphony No. 2 is performed in Sondershausen with the new finale movement. A further trip abroad takes Atterberg to Berlin and Stuttgart.


The first attempt to found a society of Swedish composers fails. Incidental music to "Hamlet"; Requiem op. 8.


Incidental music to "Mats och Petter" (Suite No.2). Atterberg marries the pianist Ella Peterson (divorce in 1923).


After two years of work Atterberg completes his Symphony No. 3 in D major op. 10 "Västkustbilder" (West Coast Pictures) including a number of different folk melodies. String Quartet in B minor op. 11.


Incidental music to Maeterlinck's "Syster Beatrice" (Suite No. 3 op. 19/1). On November 30 Atterberg conducts the Berlin Philharmonic for the first time in a concert with his own works.


Atterberg completes his first opera, "Härvard Harpolekare" op. 12. Symphony No. 4 in G minor op. 14 ("Sinfonia piccola"). The FST ("Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare") is founded with its collaboration on November 23.


Arthur Nikisch and Richard Strauss perform the Symphony No. 2 in Leipzig and Berlin. Atterberg himself conducts another concert with the Berlin Philharmonic. During the next twenty years he conducts his own music and numerous works by other Swedish composers in foreign countries. During the autumn he begins his extensive work as a music critic for the "Stockholms-Tidningen", continuing to serve in this capacity until 1957.


"De fåvitska jungfrurna" op. 17 is premiered by the Swedish Ballet in Paris on November 18. Incidental music to "Turandot" (Suite No. 4 op. 19/2).


Incidental music to Shakespeare's "The Tempest". Concerts in Vienna and Berlin.


Symphony No. 5 in D minor op 20 ("Sinfonia funebre") and Violoncello Concerto in C minor op. 21 (both works premiered in Berlin in 1923), incidental music to Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale" (Suite No. 5 "Suite barocco" op. 23). Atterberg achieves his breakthrough in Germany with his Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4. Preparations for the founding of the STIM ("Svenska tonsättares internationella musik byrå") of the Swedish society for musical performance rights (GEMA).


The statutes of the STIM formulated by Atterberg are accepted by the FST. He is engaged by the Stockholm Concert Society and encourages opera performances in Drottningsholms Castle Theater in "Stockholms-Tidningen".


Atterberg is elected president of the STIM and FST, posts that he continues to hold until 1943 and 1947, respectively.


Premiere of the three-act opera "Bäckahästen" op. 24 on Janunry 23. Incidental music to Flecker's "Hassan" (Suite No. 6 "Orientalisk legend" op. 30). Atterberg receives the first prize in a composition competition on the occasion of the dedication of the Concert Hall (April 1926); the "Rondeau rétrospectif" op. 26 is awarded the third prize. Atterberg marries Margareta Dalsjö (d.1962).


Incidental Music to Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" (Suite No. 7 op. 29). Atterberg is elected to the Royal Music Academy.


Premiere of the Horn Concerto in A major op. 28 in Stockholm on March 20. Atterberg composes more incidental pieces and begins work on his Symphony No. 6.


With his Symphony No. 6 in C major op. 31, later known as the "Dollar Symphony", Atterberg wins a worldwide symphony competition sponsored by the Columbia recording company on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of Schubert's death. The work is premiered with great success under Hermann Abendroth in Cologne on October 15. Choral ballade "Sverige" op. 32.


Symphonic poem "Älven - från fjällen till havet" op. 33.


Suite No. 8 "Pastoralsvit" op. 34.


"En Värmladsrapsodi" op. 36 for Selma Lagerlöf's seventy-fifth birthday.


Premiere of the three-act opera "Fanal" op. 35 composed between 1929 and 1932 in Stockholm on January 27. Atterberg becomes a member of the state cultural advisory council.


Concerts in Paris and Wiesbaden with Swedish music. Atterberg becomes the secretary general of CISAC ("Conseils Permanent par la Cooperation International des Compositeurs") and continues to occupy this office until 1938.


Ballade and Passacaglia op. 38. Premiere of the Piano Concerto in B flat minor op. 37, a composition on which Atterberg works between 1927 and 1935. After various promotions, Atterberg is made department head in the Patent Office


Atterberg's numerous obligations (conferences and music festivals) in connection with his CISAC work take him throughout the whole of Western Europe. During these years he composes the three-act opera "Alladin" op. 43 and only a few small-format compositions and arrangements.


Secretary of the Royal Music Academy (until 1953).


Premiere of "Alladin" op. 43 in Stockholm on March 18; German premiere in Chemnitz on October 18.


Symphony No. 7 "Sinfonia romantica" op. 45. Premiere of the symphony by Hermann Abendroth in Frankfurt.


Atterberg writes a book on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the FST.


Symphony No. 8 op. 48.


Atterberg begins to write his unpublished "Memoirs" which he finishes 1970.


Atterberg wins the first prize in the competition on the occasion of the twenty-fifth jubilee of the opera house with his "Stormen", a three-act opera composed during 1946-47.


Premiere of the "Indian Tunes" op. 51 in Indianapolis.


String Quartet op. 53.


Symphony No. 9 "Sinfonia visionaria" op. 54 for soloists, choir, and orchestra.


Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with String Orchestra op. 57.


"Vittorioso" op. 58.


Radio broadcast of the arrangement of Ture Rangström's "Ver Sacrum" with Atterberg on the cello.


Atterberg composes his last work, "Adagio Amoroso", and conducts a recording production of his Suites Nos. 5 and 8.


After fifty-six years of service at the Patent Office, Atterberg retires at the age of eighty-one (!).


Atterberg dies in Stockholm on February 15.
(Michael Kube, translated by Susan Marie Praeder, from booklets to Atterberg-CDs, cpo)