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Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927) Music for the Theatre As you like it (1920) [27:09]
Introduction to A dream play (1916) (arr. Hilding Rosenberg) [16:30] Romeo and Juliet (1922) (arr. Hilding Rosenberg) [16:43]
Peter Boman (baritone); Caroline Sjöberg (soprano); Helén Finnberg (soprano); Magnus Nilsson (bassoon); Hedwig Lagerkvist (narrator); Thomas Ungewitter (narrator); Carl Andersson (oboe)
Helsingborg Concert Hall Choir (members)
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Arvo Volmer
rec. Helsingborg Concert Hall, Sweden, 2001 STERLING CDS1045-2 [62:43]
This disc has been around a while but since we have appraised so many Sterling CDs it makes sense to fill a long-standing gap in our review coverage.
Stenhammar wrote quite a few sets of theatrical incidental music, as did Sibelius. Here are three examples not otherwise represented in the catalogue. Two have been fashioned into concert formats by fellow Swedish symphonist, Hilding Rosenberg. In one case he delivers up a suite and in the other a single continuous concert sequence. Two of the Stenhammar scores provide musical scaffolding for and around Shakespeare while the third underpins a Strindberg play. The first two are in precise and flowing romantic finery while the third - contrary to the passions implied and expected - is more emotionally curtailed. Stenhammar's Romeo and Juliet is a highly skilled score in neo-baroque finery.
Thirteen fairly brief tracks make up the As You like it music. These include some exciting fanfaring, sturdily delivered serenade-style songs, wistful pizzicato writing, moodily serene pages and rustic dances including a gracious and very exposed bassoon solo in the Pastorale. The choir mix it tastily with the horns in the Allegro (tr.18) - a huntsmen's serenade if ever there was one. This music, especially during the quicker silvery-sweet string writing, sounds like Sibelius. Two child-sweet sopranos create a rustic jejune effect in the Allegretto (tr. 11). Burred-tone baritone Peter Boman keeps things lively and endearing. The Restoration accents of the final Danza are preluded by yet more fanfaring.
Onwards to the Strindberg, A dream play. It amounts to a tone poem with acted narration between Hedwig Lagerkvist and Thomas Ungewitter but this ceases so that the second half of this single continuous piece is for orchestra alone. The music is often warm and taut yet reticent. Parts of it are akin to Delius's score for Flecker's Hassan. Later, the mood cools yet remains urgent - suggestive of gales gathering impetus. You will notice a touch of Sibelius's Tempest too - although written after this Stenhammar score. It can also be extremely romantic, suggestive of seascapes, and with some very otherworldly effects like the strangely seductive 'squeaking' in the last twenty or so bars. Stenhammar also wrote incidental music for Strindberg's Saga of the Folkungs ... one day, perhaps.
The Romeo and Juliet music, as represented here, is in five tracks with baroque titles and moods to match. It's a cousin to Grieg's Holberg Suite. Emotionally this music is on a much more passion-curtailed relaxed stage than Tchaikovsky's tone-poem. It is as if Stenhammar is saying that he will provide an archaic serenade backdrop; not something that arrogates to itself the role of the words and the actors. This is the only one of the three scores here to be solely for orchestra. The Petters Pipa movement features a rural reedy-toned solo oboe reflectively played by Carl Andersson.
The spoken words are given in the booklet, as heard, in Swedish and in English translation. Lennart Hedwall's essay is in Swedish, English and German.
This disc has a breathtakingly deep soundstage with plenty of lateral and front-back impact. For an example of its stunning impression try tr. 1. The Sterling team of Jan Lennart Höglund and Sylve Sjöberg can take a well-merited bow, as can all those involved.
It's a pity that this disc in Sterling's Swedish Romantics sequence was not a prelude to a whole series exposing all of Stenhammar's incidental music for the theatre. It is clearly a rich seam and there is more to be found. Those who cannot wait can track down CDs of his music for Lodolezzi and Tagore's Chitra.
I should add that there is now a sampler disc of 19 tracks showcasing 19 Sterling CDs (including this one) out of their total complement of 150. Sterling have extended their reach to include romantic orchestral music from Sweden (a given), Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, the UK and Mexico. Established in 1980 by the redoubtable Bo Hyttner, Sterling stands as in effect the Swedish Lyrita.
Rob Barnett Contents List As you like it (Som ni behager)
- No. 1 Intrada
- No. 6-7 Den som vid lummig stig
- No. 8 Allegro - Adagio
- No.10 Allegretto
- No.11 Blås, blås du vintervind
- No.12 Presto
- No.13 & 15 Andante
- No.16 Pastorale
- No.17 Lento grazioso
- No.18 Den hjorten fällt, vad är hans lott?
- No.22 En ungersven med kärestan sin
- No.23 Vårt äktenskap gör Juno glad
- No.24 Danza Moderato