BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871 - 1927)
Symphony No. 1 in F major (1902-3) [52.56]
Lodolezzi Sings suite (1919) [17.50]
Symphony No. 2 in G minor (1901-1902) [42.37]
Midwinter (1907) [12.25]
Florez och Blanzeflor - ballad for baritone and orchestra (1891) [8.19]
Two Sentimental Romances for violin and orchestra (1910) [12.42]
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor (original version) (1893) [45.50]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor (1904-1907) [28.43]
Peter Mattei (baritone) (Florez); Ulf Wallin (violin) (Romances); Love Derwinger
(piano) (No. 1); Cristina Ortiz (piano) (No. 2)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Malmö Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
rec. Gothenburg Concert Hall, live 24 Sept 1982 (Sym 1), live, 16 Sept 1983
(Sym 2), studio: 19-20 May 1989 (Piano Concerto 2), 11/17 June 1992, Malmö
Concert Hall (Florez, Romances, Piano Concerto 1), DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94238 [3 CDs: 76:52 + 78:12 + 75:34]
the 4 CD Bis set from which this is drawn I said that it was a sensational
bargain. Well that’s even more the case with this issue pruned of the Serenade
and some other lyric pieces and concentrating on his big orchestral statements.
In the place of the original notes we have an excellent and extended essay
by Malcolm Macdonald. Brilliant have not stinted on the documentation.
The performances and recorded sound are never less than very good indeed.
In particular the readings of the Second Symphony, piano concertos and Lodolezzi
Sings are supple, galvanic, generous-hearted and fiery. Even so I am not
shaken from my first love and allegiance in the Second Symphony – the Caprice
recording made in the 1970s by Westerberg.
The two symphonies have been taken from concerts complete with the odd moment
of 'audience participation' and with applause. The Second Symphony has had
more limelight than the First. It reminds me of the folksy Brahms or Dvorák
yet with a distinct Scandinavian atmosphere I would not claim for the more
generic-riomantic First. I doubt that anyone has ever matched Järvi's
boiling intensity in the first movement. Dvorák's Eighth Symphony is an unmistakable
presence in the second. There are moments in this virile and rhythmic symphony
where the work seemed to be a sort of nineteenth century doppelgänger
of the Moeran Symphony. If you must have a studio recording then by all means
go for Järvi in his DG version or the reputedly less well recorded Naxos
with the RSNO conducted by Petter Sundkvist (Naxos 8.553888). The strongest
contender all round is - as I say - the classic ADD recording of the Stockholm
PO conducted by the once ubiquitous Stig Westerberg on Caprice CAP 21151.
The First Symphony touches on Schumann and, just occasionally Berlioz. Although
Stenhammar claimed that it was influenced by Bruckner it is rather too relaxed
for that parallel to be entirely convincing though the rustic chivalry of
Bruckner 4 and 6 is picked up on in the finale. The work is charmingly discursive
but lacking in Brucknerian tension and storm clouds.
Peter Mattei handles the songful Florez and Blanzeflor (a chivalric
tale) with suave tone. Midvinter proceeds along the same tracks as
Alfvén's Swedish Rhapsodies while the low key Sentimental Romances are
handled with undemonstrative aplomb by Ulf Wallin. These Romances would couple
well with the willowy and undramatic pastels of Sibelius's Two Serenades.
The two piano concertos occupy disc 3. The epic First Piano Concerto stands
stylistically between the Grieg and Brahms 2 (listen to the start of the third
movement with its rustic nationalist lilt) imposing similar demands on soloist
and orchestra. This is strong and sturdy with very fine inspirational writing
in line with the Stanford Second Concerto and the Bortkiewicz concertos. The
Second is also Brahmsian but blended with early Rachmaninov. Though still
obviously romantic it sounds more 'modern' with the sort of art nouveau
decorative caprice to be found in the salon charmers of Alfred Hill, Frank
Hutchens, Greville Cooke and Harry Farjeon. It too is in four movements. Ortiz
and Derwinger are able advocates. Perhaps Ortiz makes more of her chances
than Derwinger though both are very good indeed.
The sound overall is transparent and refined with plenty of impact. Even the
analogue tape of the First Symphony sounds good and audience participation
in the two live recordings is neither extensive nor distracting.
Do go for this set if you long to hear a late-nineteenth century romantic
ploughing a delightfully Scandinavian furrow.
The accustomed romantic idiom inflamed with Swedish folk voices - a sensational