At the turn of the century, a man spent the summer in a small “composing shed” near his house writing his first symphony. It’s the story of Gustav Mahler, and also of Leopold van der Pals.

Pals had completed studies with Rheinhold Gliere and was inspired to write big works. His first symphony was completed in 1907. Its creation parallels Mahler’s first, but that’s where the resemblance ends.

Pals’ symphony is much more modest in scope. This four-movement work shows Pal to have an original voice. Post-romantic chromaticism mixes easily with impressionistic chord structures.

It was well-received in its day, which isn’t surprising. Pal guides the listener along a carefully delineated path. Unlike the Mahler first, Pals’ symphony isn’t revelatory, but it’s well-constructed. And it’s enjoyable to listen to.

This release includes other orchestral works written around the same time. Frühling und Herbst (Spring and Autumn) are two tone-poems about seasons transforming from winter to summer (and vice versa).

Wieland der Schmied is symphonic prelude based on a play by Friedrich Lienhard. In these works Pals seems closer to Debussy than Mahler in style.

The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, directed by Johannes Goritzki give credible performances. The ensemble sound is warm and blended which serve Pals’ fluid harmonies well.

Leopold van der Pals: Symphony No. 1
Wieland der Schmied: Frühling · Herbst
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra; Johannes Goritzki, conductor
CPO