Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)
Symphony No.2 in G minor Op.34 (1915)
Serenade in F major Op.31 (1913 rev.1919)
Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Tor Mann (Symphony – recorded Stockholm 1959)
Rafael Kubelik (Serenade – recorded Stockholm 1964)

Whether you have the Sixten Eckerberg recording of the Second Symphony or that by Stig Westerberg – or indeed the Naxos newcomer conducted by Petter Sundkvist – you will doubtless have succumbed unreservedly to Stenhammar’s magnificent creation. And if those shelves are laden or empty the reappearance of Tor Mann’s performance brings to the catalogue a formidably attractive reading. The 1959 recording leaves little to be desired, given the general excellence of the original set up and the fine remastering; there isn’t the full weight or body of sound of be found now and the strings can be just a mite shrill above the stave but who’s counting when confronted by a performance as all-encompassing and heroic as this one.

In Mann’s hands those hieratic horns ring out with tremendous force, the orchestral forces taut but generous, the effulgent romanticism of the opening Allegro energico powerfully sustained and the lower string delicacy tangible as touch. The Andante gets a sense of motion and lift in this reading, the movement packed with motifs and burgeoning action, almost prefiguring Martinů in its thematic generosity. Stenhammar’s late-Romanticism here rises to a crest of agitated drama whereas the third movement Allegro has a bustly nobility, a corresponding rusticity and frolicsome stamp that is winning beyond measure – doubly so in Mann’s hands. How well he draws out the mordancy of the opening section of the finale before unleashing the vital and imaginative fugato episode – no pedant fugal episode this, it’s full of quirky emphases, darting entry points, slippery and zestful, like trying to catch a trout with one hand. Fantastic horn playing rings out once more, strings are crisp, and the conclusion brings with it an admixture of declamatory and almost grimly determined peroration. A wonderful performance.

To add to the attractiveness of the disc there is Kubelik’s near revelatory performance of the Serenade. The work is marvellously life-affirming and in this 1965 recording we have an equally committed performance, one stressing the lyrical essence of the work, its vigorous ardour. The leader of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra shines brightly in the opening Overtura amidst the verdant writing, the animation and affirmatory profile. The Canzonetta positively glows with ripeness, the solo string players excelling in their moments whilst the Scherzo is a vibrant brass-led affair that, in Kubelik’s reading, misses no opportunity to stress moments of reflective intimacy amidst the bustle. He really does pace the Notturno exquisitely; the lower string voicings balanced with masterly understanding and his finale is exultant and decisive, full of panache and drive.

Here’s a disc to warm the heart and the spirit. Consider it a rave review.

Jonathan Woolf

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