Movement 1: Tranquillo e soave
Movement 2: Poco presto
Movement 3: Piano: Non troppo lento
Movement 4: Presto agitato
Movement 5: Poco allegretto
Stenhammar certainly shared a love for the Swedish landscape with his late nineteenth-century artist colleagues, and there is no doubt that the title at least partly refers to the nocturnal atmosphere at the time of the year when the short Swedish summer starts coming to an end, the nights become darker, and feelings of nostalgia and melancholy are evoked. But a psychological interpretation seems equally plausible: nature as a metaphor for the late summer of life. Stenhammar has often been described as a man who grew old early and while Nights of Late Summer was published in 1914 it had been, in his own words, ‘carried in the head for many years’. The most likely time of composition seems to be the early 1900s, a time of artistic crisis and lack of self-confidence when the composer was in his early thirties. Nights of Late Summer, more than any other of Stenhammar’s piano works, reflects the neurotic nature of the composer. The prevailing mood of the first movement is one of introspective gloom and wandering desolation. The restless and agitated second piece continues the C minor key of the first, and builds up to a passionate climax, only to disappear back into the shadows. The almost impressionistic suspended chords of the third piece, which cleverly manages to avoid the tonic of the main key of A flat major until the final bars, momentarily evoke a calmer, more comforting mindset only to be shattered by the eruptive, almost manic fourth movement. The carefully worked-out key scheme continues from the C sharp minor of the fourth piece to F sharp minor in the fifth piece, which initially is archaic and somewhat ironic in character before it loses itself in a chromatic labyrinth and finally dissolves. Nights of Late Summer and the Piano Concerto No 2 in D minor Op 23, completed in 1907, were to be Stenhammar’s last works for piano.
from notes by Martin Sturfält © 2008