OKTETTEN EHNSTEDTS EFTR.

Kring jul­gran (Swedish So­ci­ety)

Pasatiempo - - PASA TEMPOS -

The ti­tle means “Around the Christ­mas Tree,” and it in­tro­duces the most unan­tic­i­pated, charm­ing sur­prise to emerge from this year’s stack of Christ­mas re­leases. King Os­car II ruled over Swe­den from 1872 to 1907, which we would think of as the late Vic­to­rian pe­riod, and, the pro­gram notes tell us, his reign “co­in­cided with the hey­day of Swedish wind octets.” Who knew? Dur­ing the Os­car­ian Era th­ese en­sem­bles kept busy dur­ing the win­ter hol­i­days, pro­vid­ing mu­sic in ball­rooms and skat­ing rinks. One of the most pop­u­lar was led by Magnus Her­man Ehn­st­edt, af­ter whom is named the group fea­tured on this CD, the Oktetten Ehnstedts Eftr. (Ehn­st­edt’s Suc­ces­sors Octet). The ac­com­plished per­form­ers play on pe­riod in­stru­ments — specif­i­cally, the clas­sic Swedish group­ing of flute, two clar­inets, cor­net, alto/tenor horn, two valved trom­bones, and tuba — and their sound com­bines the re­fined and the rau­cous in a way that proves un­fussy and warm-hearted. The reper­toire, drawn from hand­writ­ten part books, in­cludes fa­mil­iar items like waltzes by Strauss and Wald­teufel (his Skrid­skoåkarne, which you know as The Skaters’ Waltz), but spe­cial plea­sure comes from dis­cov­er­ing pieces by such ob­scure Swedish com­posers as Carl Jo­han Nylén, rep­re­sented by his mazurka “Gamla och nya året” (”The Old Year and the New”), and Carl Fredrik Ring­vall, whose polka “Kring jul­gran” serves as the ti­tle track and cel­e­brates the then-new cus­tom of in­door Christ­mas trees. — J.M.K.

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