STENHAMMAR: Suite from Romeo and Juoiet, Op. 45. Reverenza. Two Sentimental Romances, Op. 28. Sangan (The Song) Cantata, Op. 44.
Carlotta Larsson, sooprano. Martina Dike, alto. Lars Cleveman, tenor. Fredrik Zetterstrom, baritone. Children's Choir of Norrkopings Musikklasser.Gothenburg Choir, Vocal Ensemble and Orchestra / Neemi Järvi, cond.
BIS SACD 2359 TT: 67:08

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 2. in B Flat. Symphony No. 4 in C minor "Tragic."
Residentie Orkest The Hague / Jan Willem de Vriend, cond.

FAGERLUND: Höstsonateen - Autumn Sonata
Anne Sofie van Otter, mezzo-soprano. Erika Sunnegardh, soprano. Tommi Hakala, baritone. Helena Juntunen, soprano Nichoilas Söderlung, bass. Chorus and Orchestr of the Finnish National Opera / John Storgards, cond.
BIS SACD 2357 (2 disks) TT: 120:08

Neemi Järvi has enjoyed a long association with the Gothenburg Symphony; together they have produced memorable disks of a wide variety of music including symphonies of Sibelius, Atterberg and Nielsen. For various labels over the years he has recorded many of Stenhammar's works, and on this fine new release featured is a major work, the cantata Sangen (The Song). Stenhammar's incidental music for Romeo and Juliet was one of his final works, written in 1920. for a Copenhagen production of the play. There are five sections, gentle dances and often a solo oboe is featured. Don't expect the orchestral textures and drama of Prokofiev's score! The music is heard arranged by Hilding Rosenburg. Reverenza and the two Sentimental Romances for violin and orchestra also show the composer in a gentle mood. The half-hour "symphonic cantata" also was composed in 1920. It is a big-scale work for four soloists, chorus and orchestra. As program notes state, "he reflects on what music is and can be—he touches on everything: the human and the divine; myth,dream and song; jubilation and suffering: life and death." It begins with a dramatic baritone solo exclaiming, "My song, my country!" This was recorded previously on the Caprice label with Herbert Bloomstedt on the podium:—however, it seems to be currently out of print. I have not heard this, but a perceptive reader feels it is superior to the new Järvi—it might be worth seeking out. This choral masterpiece is presented here in a fine performance. Audio is excellent and the complete text/translations are provided. A major issue!

Dutch conductor/violinist Jan Willem De Friend (b.1993) has an active career as a performer with many chamber groups, and has conducted extensively with orchestras, particularly in Holland. He specializes in early music, and already has recorded Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos as well as symphonies of Mendelssohn. Now he turns his attention to Schubert. This is the first release in a projected series of all of the symphonies. We have the early Symphony No. 2, and Symphony No. 4, the first of Schubert's symphonies to display tragic elements. These are spirited performances beautifully played by the Hague orchestra recorded August/September 2017 in the Hague's Atrium Mengelberg There are other SACD issues of these symphonies, in particularly the BIS series with Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Symphony. The only disappointment about the Challenge release is that the playing time is quite short Easily they could have included other music of Schubert.

This site praised a recording of music by Finnish composer Sebastian Fagerlund, the remarkable violin concerto (REVIEW). This is a major addition to the repertory, and now we have another important example of his work. This is his two-act opera Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata) based on Ingmar Bergman's 1978 drama of the same name. This tells the sad story of the famed pianist Charlotte Andergast and her relationship with her daughter Eva who accuses her of neglect and self-absorption. Although Bergman's story has often appeared in theater productions, this is the first as an opera. The premiere was in 2017 at the Finnish National Opera with the cast on this recording headed by famed mezzo Anne Sofie van Otter. The music is dark and foreboding as befits the subject, and again Fagerlund shows he is a master of orchestration. Program notes give an insight into the subject, and the booklet includes the libretto in Swedish and English. If you are looking for something quite different in opera check this out. The BIS engineers have captured a most realistic aural picture.

R.E.B. (December 2018)