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Sensommarnätter 'Nights of Late Summer', Op 33
published in 1914, but 'carried in the head for many years'; probably composed in the early 1900s

'Stenhammar: Piano Music' (CDA67689)
Stenhammar: Piano Music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67689 
Movement 1: Tranquillo e soave
Movement 2: Poco presto
Movement 3: Piano: Non troppo lento
Movement 4: Presto agitato
Movement 5: Poco allegretto

Sensommarnätter 'Nights of Late Summer', Op 33
If the G minor Sonata is full of youthful exuberance, then Nights of Late Summer (‘Sensommarnätter’) Op 33 seems to inhabit a different world altogether. The descriptive title has often caused the work to be compared with other popular piano miniatures by Stenhammar’s contemporaries such as Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Emil Sjögren. But although the five movements that make up the work are relatively short, the emotional range they inhabit is anything but miniature, nor are their demands on the performer. As in the case of the G minor Sonata, this is hardly music for amateur pianists.

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

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Details for CDA67689 track 9
Poco allegretto
Recording date
17 April 2007
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Phil Rowlands
Hyperion usage
  1. Stenhammar: Piano Music (CDA67689)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: November 2008
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