Stenhammar Symphony No. 2

Author: 
Robert Layton

Stenhammar Symphony No. 2

  • Symphony No. 2
  • Excelsior!

This is the first recording of Stenhammar’s G minor Symphony to be made by a non-Swedish orchestra. Its predecessors, apart from those listed above, by Sixten Eckerberg (Radiotjanst – nla), Tor Mann (RCA – nla) and Stig Westerberg (Caprice, 4/80 – nla), have all been with either the Gothenburg or Stockholm orchestras. Petter Sundkvist, a young Swedish conductor in his mid-thirties, draws very good results from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conducts this work with evident feeling.
This symphony grows more glorious with every hearing and this time is no exception. Sundkvist realizes its moments of poetry (the G minor oboe cry in the first movement, track 1, 3'30'' or the lovely woodwind solos in the scherzo, track 3, 1'58'') with a natural ardour and eloquence and without the slightest expressive self-indulgence. I like his handling of the finale with its fugal and fugato episodes very much. He builds up the architecture of the symphony impressively. Per-Goran Bergfors’s notes are excellent and he tells us that this new recording is the first to embody all the corrections made by the composer in the autograph score preserved in the Royal Musical Academy Library in Stockholm.
Apart from its competitive price, how does it compare with either of the Gothenburg versions listed above? Well Sundkvist’s reading of both the symphony and the much earlier but exhilarating Excelsior! overture can more than hold its own with any of them, even if the recording doesn’t. The acoustic is a shade on the dryish side and there is more bloom on the strings in the Gothenburg rivals listed above. (It so happens that I have been listening to the 1988 Chandos recording of Kalinnikov’s First Symphony made in the same venue, the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, in which the strings have a greater warmth and sheen.) Notwithstanding this caveat, the quality of the performance is such as to deserve a strong recommendation, and the sound, if not ideal, is perfectly well detailed and admirably clean.'

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