Sweden, 18711927

The pianist, conductor, and composer Wilhelm Stenhammar ranks among the most important Scandinavian musicians of the late 19th and early 20th century. He achieved wide recognition as pianist and conductor, and lasting fame as a composer, creating works in a wide range of genres. He composed his first opera, Tirfing, for the inauguration of the new Stockholm opera house. Among his many solo and chamber works are four piano sonatas and six string quartets. Stenhammar’s orchestral works include two piano concertos and two symphonies. He was at first a Bruckner advocate, describing his first symphony as “idyllic Bruckner.” That direction was totally shattered only a month or so before the first performance, when he encountered Sibelius’s second symphony. The experience nearly forced him to withdraw his First Symphony, and he did not return to the symphonic form for almost ten years. When he did, he wrote on his new score “Symphony Op.34 for Orchestra,” almost as if that first symphony had never existed. Indeed, he was never to describe the G Major symphony as anything other than his first and only symphony. It was only many years later that it became known as No.2. He began it while on holiday in Rome in the spring of 1911, and took no less than four years to complete it. It was first performed in Gothenburg in April 1915.