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Adolf Fredrik LINDBLAD (1801-1878)
Symphony No. 2 in D major (1855) [38:16]
Per August ÖLANDER (1824-1886)
Symphony in E flat major (1868?) [27:40]
Gävleborg Symphony Orchestra/Mats Liljefors (Lindblad)
Västerås Symphony Orchestra/Harry Damgaard (Ölander)
rec. Ljusgården I Polhemssoklan, Gävle, January 1996 (Lindblad); live, Västerås Concert Hall, 8 October 1977 (Ölander)
STERLING CDS1005-2 [65:56]

I am in the midst of a batch of reviews of Sterling reissues of composers, whose names have, with few exceptions, been new to me. Here we have two more, both Swedish, born in the early part of the nineteenth century, giving this a different feel to some of the others I have reviewed, where the music was late nineteenth-early twentieth.

Adolf Lindblad has been called a Swedish Schubert, the type of comparison that does neither party any favours. Nevertheless, it is easy to see why such a sobriquet might have been bestowed on him. Born only four years after the Viennese master, there is a definite connection in styles, though it is unlikely that Lindblad knew much of Schubert’s work. Further, his major area of endeavour was in songs, writing in excess of two hundred. His renown extended well beyond Sweden: he was championed by Spohr and was a long-term friend of Mendelssohn. While his two symphonies were recorded by Marco Polo (8.225105) in 1999, this one by Sterling was the world premiere. It is a graceful and gentle work, untroubled by stormy waters, full of sweet though not really memorable melodies. Schubert’s fifth symphony is a reasonable comparison in style and atmosphere, though hardly at that level of inspiration.

Per Ölander’s main claim to fame was winning the King’s prize for a new Nordic-themed opera in 1876, when he worked as a customs officer. Unlike Lindblad, Ölander had no significant contact with the major leagues of music in Austria and Germany, but little more is known about him. This symphony appears to be only work of his in the recorded repertoire. If Lindblad’s symphony was a little old-fashioned in its Schubertian grace, Ölander’s is much more so. If anything, it reminds me of a slightly updated Haydn, while the Scherzo has very strong allusions to Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony, especially its third movement with the country dancing. Taken in its own right, it is pleasingly tuneful, but lacking much in the way of drama.

The performances are perfectly fine, though the orchestras certainly wouldn’t have been greatly challenged. The Ölander was a live recording, but the audience must have been very well-behaved as I wouldn’t have known but for the booklet notes, which are very good for such obscure subjects.

All of the Sterling issues I have met so far have been at the very least pleasant, and some have been very good. This one fits in towards the top end.

David Barker

Previous review: John France



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