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150 years of Stenhammar – Violin and orchestra

We present another concert video from this year’s grand Stenhammar festival. Experience the violin phenomenon Johan Dalene in Two Sentimental Romances. Andrew Manze conducts the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in Excelsior! and the beloved Serenade in F, and also shares his passion for the composer’s output in an intermission interview. Finally, a chamber music bonus.

Wilhelm Stenhammar is without hesitation one of Sweden’s most significant composers and was one of the foremost Swedish pianists of his time. Konserthuset Stockholm has celebrated the 150-year anniversary of Stenhammar’s birth with a large festival in autumn 2021. Stenhammar was born in 1871 in Stockholm. His family lived on Kammakargatan, just a few hundred metres from the location at which Konserthuset Stockholm would later be built.

In the symphonic overture Excelsior!, we encounter a romantic and passionate Stenhammar at age 25. The melodies are filled with ecstatic, upward-reaching energy – Excelsior means higher, ambitiousness. Conducted by the legendary Arthur Nikisch, the Berlin Philharmonic performed the world premiere of Excelsior! in 1896, the same year Stenhammar composed it.

Stenhammar may have been a pianist, but he had a distinct feel for the expression of a violin. In Two Sentimental Romances for violin and orchestra, we get a taste of his unique ability to create long, melodic string parts that draw the listener into a peaceful, pastoral landscape. This music has the tangible feel of a summer night, where melancholy and happiness go hand in hand. The soloist is the acclaimed young Swedish star violinist Johan Dalene.

Stenhammar had the idea for the beloved and frequently performed Serenade while visiting Florence in 1907. He wrote in a letter, “I want to write beautifully and tenderly about the south, in a way that only a resident of the north can do.” And indeed he succeeded, for the Serenade is one of his true masterpieces: sensual southern European music presented in Nordic light – playful, lyrical and beautiful.

As a bonus, the entire concert concludes with Stenhammar’s Violin Sonata. Pianist Peter Friis Johansson joins Johan Dalene in this performance.

The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra is led by Andrew Manze, the internationally acclaimed conductor and violinist who was chief conductor of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra from 2006–2014.

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You can still buy the programme book which was produced for the Stenhammar festival. Content: Introductory article by Magnus Haglund, work comments, timeline of important events, list of works, artist biographies. In Swedish. About 130 pages.

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  • The music

  • Wilhelm Stenhammar Excelsior!
  • Wilhelm Stenhammar Two Sentimental Romances for violin and orchestra
  • Interview with Andrew Manze
  • Wilhelm Stenhammar Serenade in F major
  • Wilhelm Stenhammar Sonata in a minor for violin and piano
  • Participants

  • Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Andrew Manze conductor
  • Johan Dalene violin
  • Peter Friis Johansson piano
  • From a livestream 30 September 2021.
  • The video is approximately one hour and 55 minutes. 
  • Subtitles in English and Swedish is activated by using the CC control in the video player.


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