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Stenhammar: Serenade In F Major, Florez And Blanzeflor, Ithaca

Stenhammar / Fredriksson / Koivula
Release Date: 09/28/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572186   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wilhelm Stenhammar
Performer:  Karl Magnus Fredriksson
Conductor:  Hannu Koivula
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gavle Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The performances here are all very good, but it's the total program that makes this disc so interesting. Florez och Blanzeflor and Ithaka, both to texts by Oscar Levertin, are ballads for baritone and orchestra lasting about 10 minutes each. They belong to the same tradition as Sibelius' Luonnotar, and the music, though hardly as distinctive as that of the Finnish master, really is very fine. Ithaka, in particular, with its evocation of a turbulent sea, is particularly atmospheric. Karl-Magnus Fredriksson has a somewhat grainy baritone that sounds very good in loud passages but turns somewhat tremulous in softer sections. This bodes best for Ithaka, with its more heroic cast.

The interlude from Stenhammar's cantata The Song
Read more is fairly well known, and its gentle lyricism works well in this context. The Prélude and Bourrée is a world premiere, as the work (which dates from 1891) was only recently discovered. The main theme of both of its movements reveals a certain family resemblance to a tune in Grieg's Holberg Suite--I leave it to you to discover exactly which section. Not a major piece by any means, but it's unfailingly charming, and at nearly 15 minutes it's by no means a mere "chip" off of the master's workbench.

All of which brings us to the main item, the Serenade, arguably Stenhammar's orchestral masterpiece (alongside the Second Symphony). The performance here really is very good, unerringly paced by Hannu Koivula--but the truth is that the Gävle Symphony just isn't up to the level of, say, the Gothenburg Symphony for Järvi on DG or (preferably) BIS. It's not so much a question of technical prowess as it is sheer weight of sonority, of the strings particularly, but also the trumpets, which sound a bit timid. For example, the huge climax at figure 48 in the scherzo contains one of the work's very few triple-forte moments, but the orchestra simply hasn't got the necessary dynamic range. This is only evident on direct comparison to other versions of the work, and the sonics as such are quite good. So if this issue isn't likely to bother you, I can recommend this disc, particularly for the imaginative program.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Serenade in F, Op. 31 by Wilhelm Stenhammar
Conductor:  Hannu Koivula
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gavle Symphony Orchestra
2.
Florez and Blanzeflor, Op. 3 by Wilhelm Stenhammar
Performer:  Karl Magnus Fredriksson (Baritone)
Conductor:  Hannu Koivula
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gavle Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891; Sweden 
3.
Ithaka, Op. 21 by Wilhelm Stenhammar
Performer:  Karl Magnus Fredriksson (Baritone)
Conductor:  Hannu Koivula
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gavle Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Sweden 
4.
Sangen, Op. 44: Interlude by Wilhelm Stenhammar
Conductor:  Hannu Koivula
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gavle Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; Sweden 
5.
Prelude and Bourree by Wilhelm Stenhammar
Conductor:  Hannu Koivula
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gavle Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891 

Sound Samples

Serenade in F major, Op. 31: I. Overtura
Serenade in F major, Op. 31: III. Canzonetta
Serenade in F major, Op. 31: IV. Scherzo
Serenade in F major, Op. 31: V. Notturno
Serenade in F major, Op. 31: VI. Finale
Florez och Blanzeflor, Op. 3
Ithaka (Ithaca), Op. 21
Sangen, Op. 44: Mellanspel (Interlude)
Prelude and Bouree

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