Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stenhammar: Serenade (Kubelik)

Wilhelm Stenhammar
My exploration of Scandinavian music continues with a charming Serenade for orchestra by Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927), the Swedish composer, conductor and pianist who cultivated friendships with his contemporaries Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. (The latter, in fact, found something of a haven at Gothenburg, where Stenhammar was artistic director of the orchestra, at a time when the Danish master was having certain troubles in his native country, and Stenhammar invited him over to conduct concerts.) Stenhammar, who wrote two symphonies, two piano concerti, and six string quartets, composed in a style more conservative than his more famous contemporaries, but nevertheless he was influenced strongly by them. This five-movement Serenade of 1913 breathes much of the same atmosphere as Sibelius, especially in its Valse triste-like second movement:

Stenhammar: Serenade in F Major for orchestra, Op. 31
Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rafael Kubelik
Recorded Sept. 22-24, 1964
Heliodor HS-25086, one stereo LP record
Link (FLAC files, 178.77 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 61.02 MB)

Heliodor Records was the budget arm of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, and had a much stronger presence in Europe than in the USA, where they were on sale, manufactured by MGM Records, for only two years, from 1967 until 1969. Many of their releases were culled from old MGM classical issues of the 1950s (and were, unfortunately, given the fake stereo treatment), but some, like this one, were from Deutsche Grammophon recordings not in the then-current classical series, which MGM had been distributing as direct imports since 1962 (having taken over from American Decca). This all stopped in 1969 when Polydor established an office in the USA to handle imports.


  1. Thanks so much, Bryan, and just in time for today's Kubelik centennial. I'm really looking forward to this, as I'm quite partial to Stenhammar.

    1. Oh my, I was completely unaware that it was Kubelik's centennial! Just one of those lucky coincidences...thanks for calling it to my attention!

  2. The European Heliodor series was primarily electronically rechanneled mono recordings as well. Most of those were also rather echo-ridden, though the performances were fine. I wonder what they were trying to accomplish other than competition in the budget LP arena. Also most of those were NOT marked as rechanneled so caveat emptor when buying those on the used market.

  3. Thank you for this. I first heard this recording (and the Serenade) on a Swedish Society SLT LP in the late 1960s ("prepare to be ravished" said my tutor) , and was immediately hooked both on the composer and Swedish music in general. There have been many later recordings but none have quite caught the sense of "open-airiness" captured here.

    Andrew Smith

  4. I'd also like to thank you for making this available. Listened to it on the way to work and found it a wonderful performance.