Alfvén: Symphony No 2, Prodigal Son / Willén, Ireland So

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Listen as Niklas Willén teases the skittish polka (No. 6) from Alfvén's "The Prodigal Son" ballet suite, or steers his players through the vehement fugue that rounds out his Symphony No. 2, and you'll appreciate why this release commands unreserved praise. Ireland's NSO gives superlative performances, worthy alternatives to Neeme Järvi's coolly efficient Royal Stockholm Philharmonic accounts on BIS. These works come to life in Willén's hands. For example, he infuses the third section (a festive march) of the ballet music with the requisite proud swagger, while the national dances that follow are engagingly characterised.

It's all helped by a superb recording, one of the best yet from Dublin's National Concert Hall. The sound is firmly focussed at the bass end (aiding the cellos' difficult lead passage at the start of the symphony's scherzo for example) but still bright and detailed across the registers, and pleasingly balanced. The chillier BIS recording is more forward, often exaggerating the brass. Willén's reading of the symphony is also outstanding. Järvi's is generally quicker, the basic pulse more urgent, but never as rich in contrasts. Willén's longer-breathed Andante conjures a huge range of textures and sonorities, with the dark-hued horns and sombre lower winds particularly impressive. Both conductors direct the uplifting finale eloquently, but Willén's players give all they have in music that's probably new to them, and that extra effort is just one of the factors that makes these performances so compelling.
--Michael Jameson,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8555072

  • UPC: 747313507221

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Hugo Alfvén

  • Conductor: Niklas Willén

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland


  1. Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 11/R 28

    Composer: Hugo Alfvén

    Ensemble: National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland

    Conductor: Niklas Willén

  2. The Prodigal Son, R 214

    Composer: Hugo Alfvén

    Ensemble: National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland

    Conductor: Niklas Willén