Considered to be one of the great Nordic symphonies of its time, Wilhelm Stenhammar's Symphony No. 2 in G minor was a long time in the making. Stenhammar the conductor and pianist was a leading figure in the musical life of Sweden and Scandinavia, but in his role as composer he struggled with self-doubt, feeling that his knowledge of musical theory was insufficient. In 1910 he decided to address this perceived shortcoming, and began an intensive study of counterpoint which included setting himself several thousand assignments over the following decade. At the same time, between 1911 and 1915, Stenhammar composed his G minor symphony, and against this background it is hardlyRead more surprising that it displays his preoccupation with counterpoint, its final movement a grandiose double fugue. If the symphony is one of Stenhammar’s most celebrated works, his music for Strindberg’s A Dream Play is one of the least-known. It was composed for a production of Strindberg’s existential drama in 1916, a year after the completion of the Symphony. Rarely performed after that, the music was arranged into a concert version in 1970 by Hilding Rosenberg. Christian Lindberg and the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra have previously recorded Stenhammar’s Serenade to critical acclaim.
Lindberg’s reading of the 2nd Symphony moves with the sense of urgency Stenhammar most assuredly had in mind. The Andante lilts, the Scherzo swings, and he wisely keeps the busy contrapuntal finale bustling along. This glorious release should not be missed.