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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67750
Recording details: November 2008
Helsingborg Concert Hall, Sweden
Produced by John H West
Engineered by Sean Lewis
Release date: November 2009
Total duration: 29 minutes 19 seconds

'Hyperion's 49th is a real humdinger … few will be able to resist the tumultous finale [Second Concerto]. Manze was a shrewd choice of conductor, as was Seta Tanyel as soloist, a pianist whose lyrical grace is matched by a no-holds-barred bravura and an innate sparkle that makes her the preferred choice over the excellent Mats Widlund in the First Concerto (Chandos). The recorded sound is of Hyperion's usual high standard' (Gramophone)

'This is a piece certainly worth having. Seta Tanyel is in full command of the pianistic demands, and Andrew Manze conducts the Helsingborg orchestra with finesse and energy' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Wilhelm Stenhammar's two piano concertos are astonishing works, and their neglect outside the composer's native Sweden is shameful. As with much of his output, they derive their complexity and strength from his need to find an individual voice while also staking a claim for a place in the evolving symphonic tradition that includes Beethoven and Brahms. The latter's Second Piano Concerto was Stenhammar's structural starting point in each instance, but while his vast First Concerto (1893) swerves between the enormity of epic and the intimacy of folk song, the taut, embattled Second (1909) places piano and orchestra in terse opposition until the tension is eventually released in one of the most forceful slow movements ever composed. The performances, bigger in scope and scale than any we've heard before, are exceptional. The soloist is Seta Tanyel, formidable in her declamatory intensity and lyrical weight. Andrew Manze, meanwhile, conducts with steely commitment' (The Guardian)

'Stenhammar's concertos embrace traditional concerto forms with flair and lyricism … charm, virtuosity, melodiousness and drama. Tanyel's fiery vigour is fabulous and the orchestra plays ample tribute to its fellow countryman under the impressive baton of Briton Andrew Manze' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Each piece is a fine, distinctive work, embodying many of the central qualities of this distinguished musician … splendidly played by the Turkish/Armenian pianist Seta Tanyel and well backed by Andrew Manze' (Dominion Post, New Zealand)

'Andrew Manze incisively shapes Stenhammar's sonorous woodwind writing, and the Helsingborg Symphony strings boast superior presence and heft' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Tanyel, backed by the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, turns in a wondrous performance … an ear opener that will whet your appetite for more … this set is a winner … simply tremendous' (Midwest Record, USA)

Piano Concerto No 2 in D minor, Op 23
composer
1909

Adagio  [6'43]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The years between the first and second concertos saw the launch of Stenhammar’s conducting career with the premiere of his concert overture Excelsior! Op 13 in 1896. But there were also some failures along the way which precipitated something of a crisis of confidence for Stenhammar the composer. Two unsuccessful operas in the 1890s were followed by a symphony in F major, completed, performed and immediately withdrawn, probably as a reaction to the revelatory experience of encountering Sibelius’s second symphony Op 43 for the first time. It could be said that in working for at least three years to complete the second piano concerto Stenhammar entered his ‘middle’ period. Any outward similarities between the two concertos (four movements, with the scherzo placed second and the middle two in keys far distant from home) are outnumbered by their different events and the later work’s novel, some have said ‘improvised’, structure. Unlike the first concerto, the second starts in an unsettling way: the piano’s tentative opening phrase in D minor is immediately contradicted by the orchestra’s cellos and basses which pull the key downwards. This tonal tug of war between orchestra and piano becomes the main ‘story’ and is all the more confusing because the soloist is the one defending the ‘correct’ key, a lone voice against the orchestra’s powerful attempts to destabilize it (at 1'34'' in track 5, for example). In a long, unaccompanied paragraph the piano presents a second theme and establishes some tonal security (from 2'04''—this passage is a good example of the huge chords Stenhammar requires of both the pianist’s hands) but the tension between soloist and orchestra about the very key of the piece (traditionally something agreed upon before starting!) runs through the whole of the first two movements. (Listen to the argument during the last half minute of track 5.) The cantabile third movement is in C sharp minor, the key to which the orchestra has been gravitating, and it is only by means of a beautiful and subtle transition that the soloist finally convinces the orchestra to come ‘home’ to D major for a glorious, virtuosic finale.

from notes by Andrew Manze © 2009

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