Piano Concerto No 2, Piano Concerto No 1
Andrew Manze, Seta Tanyel, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra
The tally is brought up to 49 in Hyperion’s definitive catalogue of romantic piano concertos with this rather weighty one.
Rather, weighty two, from Sweden’s representative in the great dawning of 20th century music. Wilhelm Stenhammar’s powerful Opus 1 was not in fact his first composition. Perhaps he listened to the openings of his first few works, and selected this as the one that would most emphatically get his career started.
An understandable selection, with a piece that retains enough connections to popular works by other composers to funnel off some of their excess interest, while establishing Stenhammar as a name to
conjure with, mixing in sturdy ideas all his own. He uses no particular imagery, liberal with melody but sparing of sentiment, rambling widely without ever getting lost, following unpredictable paths yet always finding logically consistent destinations.
Both works are sizeable enough to demonstrate Stenhammar’s ability to control orchestral forces on a symphonic scale, when they might easily unravel into dozens of loose ends. The differences between them seem greater than they actually prove to be, so while number 2 may be shorter and less obviously demanding, they are both exhausting to listen to, offering volume, loudness and might as primary virtues.
Romantic music on the heavy side of the scales. Surprising it took Hyperion 49 goes to reach it.
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