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Stenhammar: String Quartets Nos. 3-6

Oslo String Quartet

CPO 7774262

An important release of Norwegian quartets by Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927), "a great unknown" of the early 20 C, music which rewards listening and relistening to grow familiar with it.

Their absence from the European repertoire (certainly the case in UK) is scandalous and it is to be hoped that one of our own enterprising young string quartets will grasp the nettle. *

It has been claimed, not unreasonably I feel, that Stenhammar’s six string quartets are the most important written between those of Brahms and Bartok. In style they range from that of the middle/late Romantics to one akin to mature Sibelius.

These 4 are the most significant of the set; No 3 represents "a new beginning" for Stenhammar in 1897; "with audible recourse to Beethoven Stenhammar cojures up the tone of the Razoumovsky Quartets Op 59" [Michael Kube, whose notes are comprehensive and helpful].

Most of these here are weighty, at c. 30 mins each; No. 5 (played in London to great effect 2009*) is lighter and was first titled Serenade (1910).

Recommended without reservation (another set has been promised from BIS, which has committed itself to recording Stenhammar's orchestral music).

Peter Grahame Woolf

*Stenhammar - - was represented by one of the most attractive of his seven string quartets, inexcusably unknown in our insular concert programme repertoire.[Stenhammar Quartet, Swedish Hall, Marylebone, London, 19 May 2009 ]