Scandinavian Composers

Piano, Fortepiano and Harpsichord Music

Scandinavian Composers

Postby Richard0428 » Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:21 am

I've been learning several wonderful pieces by Scadinavian composers recently, and all three have been haunting my days (and nights) since. Piano music by most composers from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden is still relatively unknown territory for many of us, so I'd like to recommend a couple of works that I think are (if not flat out masterpieces) works of great expressive power, and deserving of far more exposure in recitals. I'm sure there's much more out there, and would welcome suggestions of other pieces to explore.

To kick off, here are four Scandinavian pieces that I can't believe I didn't get to know earlier:

Stenhammer: Nights in Late Summer, op. 33. Perhaps Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammer's greatest piano work (he wrote several piano sonatas as well), the five short pieces of Nights has an autumnal, melancholic feel that is quite extraordinary, with an atmosphere a little reminiscent of some of Grieg's late Lyric pieces. There's also an interesting preoccupation in places with the lower register of the keyboard, which adds to the dark atmosphere. The work takes a little time to work its spell, but then (in my experience at least) it's a piece of rare, autumnal beauty.
Incidentally Stenhammer also wrote some exceptionally nice orchestral music: the first symphony is a real knowckout - it's quite inexplicably been very rarely played (although recorded twice, by Neema Jarvi, on BIS and DG).
An old edition of the music is available on IMSLP at: http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/d ... s_Op33.pdf

Madetoja: Kuoleman Puutarha (The Garden of Death). Written, like the second symphony after the death in the Finnish Civil War, of the composer's brother, this is the best and most deeply-felt of Madetoja's piano works. Anyone familiar with the darkly beautiful second symphony will immediately recognise the harmonic world of the first of the three pieces, which is a piece of marvellous harmonic lushness coupled with a real emotional impact. The remaining two pieces of this deeply sad little suite (a valse triste and a gentle berceuse with a stern warning at the end) are lighter in texture, but just as heartfelt and moving.
IMSLP has the music: http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/2 ... a_Mort.pdf

Nielsen: Suite, op. 45: Nielsen's suite for piano is a lot better known than these last two pieces, although it seems much less popular than the Chaconne. Nielsen apparently regretted initially calling it the 'Lucifer' suite, but there's no doubt that some of the music is truly demonic in its intensity (beginning with the scarifying middle section of the 1st movement). A puzzling, extraordinarily wide-ranging piece, it has the added advantage of an extraordinarily exhilarating final page.
For the music, see IMSLP at: http://imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/f ... _Op.45.pdf

Rautavaara: Narcissus. Short and absolutely magical (what a wonderful fade out at the end!), post-Ravelian, Narcissus and another recent Rautavaara piano work, Passionale would each make a wonderful encore.
Narcissus is published by Fennica: http://www.fennicagehrman.fi/salescat.htm; Passionale is under Boosey and Hawkes

I'm sure there's a great deal more to explore. Looking back at these four works, I continue to be astounded by the depth and contrast between these all-too-neglected works from an area of the world still best known to pianists for producing Grieg.
Last edited by Richard0428 on Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:08 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby BabyGrand » Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:41 am

Thank you for highlighting these works, Richard. I found recordings of the lovely Stenhammer Nights in Late Summer then got completely side tracked listening to some of his other wonderful piano and choral works. Right, back to the list....

Best wishes
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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby rob » Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:09 am

Thank you Richard for kicking off a thread that will be one of my favourites, and with such a great choice of works. Stenhammar was a terrific composer and I recommend in particular his Second Symphony (the performance by Stig Westerberg is particularly magical) if people can investigate beyond his piano music. He was a renowned conductor of course, and I've often wondered if any of his performances have ever been available.

Postscript: Incidentally, I am quite happy for such major countries to have a thread each if that is wanted, and of course, major composers like Sibelius and Nielsen certainly deserve their own threads.
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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby Jean-Séb » Sat Oct 24, 2009 9:14 am

i like the piano music by Emil Sjögren. I am not familiar with his vocal romances, although some of them have been recorded:
http://www.lamediatheque.be/med/details ... 1&secured=
Wilhem Peterson-Berger, another composer that I like, has arranged some of Sjögren Romances for piano. Here they are.
Sjögren (Peterson-Berger) Romances.pdf

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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby thalbergmad » Sat Oct 24, 2009 11:50 am

Those who have not heard any of the Danish Romantic Piano Concerto series have not lived.

Such melody and majesty is to be found.

Listening heaven to those who are tuned into Radio Romantic.

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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby Riodk » Sat Oct 24, 2009 1:25 pm

Agree with Thal here. Really nice stuff.

Sad that almost nothing else is recorded with these composers. Not even on the Danish Labels.

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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby ilu » Sat Oct 24, 2009 5:21 pm

Emil Sjögren: Theme and Variations, Op.48.
Sjogren_-_Op.48_-_Theme_&_Variations.pdf


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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby fredbucket » Sat Oct 24, 2009 10:17 pm

Jean-Séb wrote:i like the piano music by Emil Sjögren.

This ought to spice up PP a bit. NMS.
Sjögren - Op. 10 Erotikon.pdf

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Collection of Erotica

Postby WCosand » Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:29 am

That scan was only number five of the opus. Here is a smaller scan from IMSLP of the entire work.
http://waltercosand.com/CosandScores/Co ... oticon.pdf
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Re: Scandinavian Composers

Postby Jean-Séb » Sun Oct 25, 2009 7:45 am

fredbucket wrote:
Jean-Séb wrote:i like the piano music by Emil Sjögren.

This ought to spice up PP a bit. NMS.
Sjögren - Op. 10 Erotikon.pdf

Regards
Fred


Yes, I think this is one of my old scans. Actually a very good piece, easy and impressive, and the last and best known in the series of op.10. Erotikon is a title shared with other piano pieces, for example by Jensen.
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