Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Stenhammar wrote an Piano Concerto that's an echo of Tchaikovsky and Brahms both


Aficionados of Tchaikovsky’s “innovative” Piano Concerto #1 in B-flat minor will want to know that there’s another big romantic piano concerto in that key, by Swedish composer Wilhlelm Stenhammar, going back to 1894.

It really does sound “like Brahms”, so it will be “good for you”.  And like the Brahms concerto (in B-flat Major) it has four movements, with a second movement scherzo, which, however, if light and elfish.

The first movement is super-serious (“Molto moderato e maestoso”), and stays in minor for its heavy conclusion (Tchaikovsky went into the Picardy Major even in the first movement). The Andante is rather conventional.

But the curious part of this work is the Finale, marked “Allegro commodo”.  Again, rather playful, the music migrates to a chorale like second theme. But unlike following most romantic concertos and taking the opportunity for a big tune conclusion, the work, after a somewhat Brahmsian (quoting the Brahms First Piano Concerto directly once) building, dies away into peace.

Relatively few “romantic” piano concertos end quietly.  However Wilhelm Furtwangler’s B Minor concerto, over an hour in length, does so.  

My CD is the Chandos with Mats Widlund, piano, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky (1992).

Stenhammar's second concerto, in D Minor, is livelier and does end briskly, and is on BIS. 

CD’s were all the rage from the late 80s to mid 90s.  Now, people say they don’t want the bother of storage and just buy MP3 files and accompanying PDF’s, and save their collections “in the Cloud”.  Remember the days of vinyl?  Elliptical styli?  Inner groove distortion?  Surface noise?



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