Stenhammar: Serenade in F major, Op 31; Symphony No 2 in G minor, Op 34

Reviewed on Thu 03 Jan, 2019

To the captivating Serenade Blomstedt and his exemplary orchestra bring a wholly delectable grace, sense of wonder, songful glow and beaming affection that had me purring from start to finish.

2019 launches in propitious fashion with this stimulating and generous pairing of two major symphonic works by the Swedish master Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) superbly played by the Gothenburg Symphony under the wonderfully wise, selfless and humane baton of Herbert Blomstedt. Captured live by the BIS microphones in the marvellously sympathetic acoustic of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, these are entrancingly unforced, deeply satisfying performances to match any on disc – and that includes Stig Westerberg's classic 1970s renderings, as well as Neeme Järvi's very fine DG recordings with this same band. To the captivating Serenade Blomstedt and his exemplary orchestra bring a wholly delectable grace, sense of wonder, songful glow and beaming affection that had me purring from start to finish. (Incidentally, there's also a glorious live account of the Serenade from 2005 on YouTube featuring Blomstedt at the helm of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.) As for the substantial Second Symphony, iron grip and architectural splendour go hand in hand with a lofty intellect and majestic sweep that make for profoundly illuminating listening. A superlative coupling, this, and emphatically not to be missed!
–Andrew Achenbach