Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Serenade probably is his orchestral masterpiece, although a good case can be made for the Second Symphony as well. It has been lucky on disc, starting with Rafael Kubelik’s very good recording, and Neeme Järvi’s first version, also on BIS, which includes an extra movement that the composer later deleted. There really are no poor recordings of it, and this newcomer is very good. Christian Lindberg’s pacing is just about ideal, with a scintillating scherzo and finale, and two lovely slow movements (Canzonetta and Notturno) that are quite touching in their reserved lyricism.
The gentle Interlude from Stenhammar’s cantata The Song, and the exciting Excelsior! overture make logical and apt couplings, and they are equally well done. Excelsior!, in particular, launches the program with a jolt that bodes well for the sensitive and idiomatic music-making to come. The Royal Flemish Philharmonic plays very confidently for Lindberg, with fine ensemble throughout (especially impressive in the quick movements of the Serenade).
I suppose that the rationale for this remake is the use of SACD technology, but compared to BIS’s first recording this one sounds a bit lacking in bass, and it’s not quite as clear texturally (percussion, especially, is too recessed in piano passages). Still, as we like to say, a fine performance is its own justification, and this disc fills that bill without question.