Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Stenhammar, Sweden's symphonist

Compared to its neighbouring countries (Finland-Sibelius, Danmark-Nielsen, Norway-Grieg), Sweden has given us a remarkably small amount of master composers, let alone grandmasters. Their best composer is probably Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927), whose unashamedly late romantic output with just a hint of Sibelius in later works, is still worth exploring. He wrote two symphonies, but withdrew the first later. His second is in my opinion his best work overall, traditional certainly for 1911-1915, with a clear key (G Minor) and four movements, spanning 45 minutes in total. But it is a fun melodic work to listen to objectively. The performance by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Petter Sundkvist leaves nothing to be desired. The filler is a worthwhile occasional work, the symphonic overture Excelsior! dating back to 1896, with some influences by Wagner. Overall, not an essential composer but one worth investigating and this Naxos disc is the ideal way to do so.