In the first volume we heard Wilhelm Stenhammar pay tribute to Beethoven, and creating in the fourth what some consider to be the finest Scandinavian string quartet. Now the excellent Stenhammar Quartet are back with volume two in which the listener discovers how the composer has progressed after some self-imposed rigorous counterpoint study, and gets to hear the premiere recording of the unnumbered F Minor Quartet composed in 1897. Stenhammar was pleased with the middle movements but worried about the finale and in the end abandoned it. Was he justified? You decide.
After the fourth quartet the self-critical Stenhammar felt he needed further refinement, especially in counterpoint, and he spent nine years studying. The results can be heard in the fifth and sixth quartets. The melody and invention are as rich as before but there is a greater homogeneity in the part writing. Gone too are the tributes to Beethoven and Haydn and the flirtation with atonality – this is late Romantic music with strong folk influences and a light infusion of the ‘impressionism’ of Debussy or even Delius and the influence of his great friend Jean Sibelius.
Although a celebrated pianist, Stenhammar worked closely with the Aulin Quartet and knew the genre inside out. The Stenhammar Quartet play beautifully and lovingly the attractive music of this much neglected composer.