Magazine article Gramophone

Stenhammar: 'String Quartets, Vol 1

Magazine article Gramophone

Stenhammar: 'String Quartets, Vol 1

Article excerpt

Stenhammar

'String Quartets, Vol 1'

String Quartets--No 3, Op 18; No 4, Op 25.

Lodolezzi Sings, Op 39--Elegy; Intermezzo

Stenhammar Quartet

BIS [F] [SACD] BIS1659 (74' * DDD/DSD)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Swedish quartet start new cycle of namesake's works

As relatively recently as 1983 in these pages, Robert Layton felt it necessary to preface his review of a recording of all six Stenhammar quartets (by the Fresk, Godand and Copenhagen Quartets on Caprice) with an extended introduction to what was still essentially unknown music outside Scandinavia. I'm not sure that the situation has changed that much in 30 years. In performance terms, the differences between this new Fourth Quartet--considered by both Layton and BIS's note-writer to be the outstanding work in the set--and the version of the Oslo Quartet are big enough to suggest that there is as yet no 'norm' for readings of these works.

Stenhammar treads around the borders of tonality in an excitingly anarchic manner not dissimilar to that of Bartok, Janacek or Martinu. To play the style/date guessing game with this music (written in the first decade of the 20th century), Brahms has obviously happened--and remains harmonically and melodically a touchstone but, rather like the Adagio of Sibelius's Third Symphony, it is as if the older composer's methods have been thoroughly wrapped in Nordic mist. …

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