Frederiksson/ Gävle Symphony/ Koivula
Wilhelm Stenhammar's symphonies, piano concertos and songs have edged their way into the UK repertoire, though we have still to take on board his Serenade in F, and his two great ballads for baritone and orchestra, Ithaca, and Florez and Blanzeflor. All three works share the theme of transience. The serenade's gracious exuberance founders midway into melancholy, after which the mood remains darkly ambiguous. The heartbreaking medieval narrative of Florez and Blanzeflor positions the lives of a pair of lovers against the turning of the seasons, while Ithaca re-imagines Ulysses' homecoming as a metaphor for man's desire for rest after the conflict of existence. The performances, with Hannu Koivula conducting the Gävle Symphony, make up in atmosphere for what they occasionally lack in refinement, and the ballads are sensationally sung by Karl-Magnus Frederiksson. The disc also includes the world premiere recording of Prelude and Bourrée, an early (1891) work, the manuscript of which has only recently come to light. It's a slight piece, strongly influenced by Schumann, but done with bags of elegant charm.
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