Wilhelm Stenhammar's two piano concertos are astonishing works, and their neglect outside the composer's native Sweden is shameful. As with much of his output, they derive their complexity and strength from his need to find an individual voice while also staking a claim for a place in the evolving symphonic tradition that includes Beethoven and Brahms. The latter's Second Piano Concerto was Stenhammar's structural starting point in each instance, but while his vast First Concerto (1893) swerves between the enormity of epic and the intimacy of folk song, the taut, embattled Second (1909) places piano and orchestra in terse opposition until the tension is eventually released in one of the most forceful slow movements ever composed. The performances, bigger in scope and scale than any we've heard before, are exceptional. The soloist is Seta Tanyel, formidable in her declamatory intensity and lyrical weight. Andrew Manze, meanwhile, conducts with steely commitment.
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