5 stars, The Guardian 30/08/2013: ”The performances, bristling with tension and lyrical beauty, are exceptional."
If there is one Swedish composer in the early 20th century who in some way can compare with Sibelius and Nielsen, it is Wilhelm Stenhammar – incidentally a personal friend of both these towering figures in Nordic music.
And in Stenhammar’s production – which includes songs, piano music and large-scale orchestral works – his string quartets form a special chapter. The seven quartets (of which one, in F minor, was withdrawn by the composer soon after its first performance) were written over the space of 22 years, and mirror Stenhammar’s development, from full-blown Romanticism to a more sparse and formally concentrated idiom.
As a pianist, Stenhammar worked closely for many years with the Aulin Quartet, the finest Swedish string quartet of its time. (It was the Aulin Quartet that gave the first performances of all Stenhammar’s quartets up to and including No.4 in A minor, Op.25.) His familiarity with the medium is evident in these works which have been described as ‘the most important written between those of Brahms and Bartók’, but which still remain less well-known internationally than they deserve.
In a bid to change this, the Stenhammar Quartet here present the first disc in a trilogy which will include the six quartets published during the composer’s lifetime, as well as the F minor quartet – for the first time on disc – and other music for string quartet. Making its first appearance on BIS, the Stenhammar Quartet was formed in 2002 and has made a name for itself in Sweden and internationally as interpreters of Stenhammar’s music, as well as of core repertoire and contemporary works.