BBC Music Magazine - - Orchestral -

Romeo and Juliet – Suite; Rev­erenza; Two Sen­ti­men­tal Ro­mances; Sån­gen (The Song)

Char­lotta Lars­son (so­prano), Martina Dike (mezzo-so­prano), Lars Cleve­man (tenor), Fredrik Zet­ter­ström (bari­tone); Gothen­burg Sym­phony Cho­rus & Orches­tra/neeme Järvi

BIS BIS-2359 (hy­brid CD/SACD)

67:08 mins

Lis­ten­ers only fa­mil­iar with Swedish com­poser Wil­helm Sten­ham­mar’s ex­pan­sively en­dear­ing or­ches­tral Ser­e­nade may be taken aback by the torrent of notes at the start of his 1921 sym­phonic can­tata Sån­gen (The Song). With an elo­quent bari­tone surf­ing the or­ches­tral waves, pas­sion­ately singing of the ‘coun­try of my songs’, we could al­most be knee-deep in Wag­ner, one of Sten­ham­mar’s early loves. The can­tata’s se­cond half, mean­while, drifts to­ward ★an­del or­a­to­rios in a trans­fig­ur­ing poly­phonic fer­ment, vividly cap­tured by

Neeme Järvi’s Gothen­burg forces on this well-en­gi­neered record­ing. It’s a use­ful re­minder not to put this late Ro­man­tic fig­ure in a re­stric­tive pi­geon-hole.

A dif­fer­ent shock might shake the bones dur­ing the suite of in­ci­den­tal mu­sic from a 1922 pro­duc­tion of Shake­speare’s Romeo and Juliet. For­get the pas­sion and drama brought to the sub­ject by Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev; what we have here is a beau­ti­fully played se­ries of ar­chaic Re­nais­sance dances and pas­toral land­scapes del­i­cately painted in a cool Scan­di­na­vian light. An­other sur­prise ar­rives with the brass-ac­cented grotes­queries threaded through Rev­erenza, the dis­carded se­cond move­ment of the Ser­e­nade. Only with the nos­tal­gic but dig­ni­fied Two Sen­ti­men­tal Ro­mances, de­light­fully topped by the sweet-toned vi­o­lin so­los of Sara Trobäck, does Sten­ham­mar snug­gle up to con­ven­tions.

What­ever the com­poser’s mood or man­ner, from full-throated vo­cal cries to in­ti­mate cham­ber del­i­ca­cies, Järvi clearly be­lieves in this mu­sic. So does the Gothen­burg Sym­phony, the orches­tra Sten­ham­mar him­self con­ducted from 1907 to 1922.

Ge­off Brown



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