Bernt Wilhelmsson

Swedish Piano Romanticism

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No, the piano music on this disc is emphatically not the most intellectually challenging music ever written. Dating between 1883 and 1914, the music here by Swedish composers Wilhelm Stenhammar and Emil Sjögren is tuneful, colorful, and, most of all, heartfelt. And as performed by the young Swedish pianist Bernt Wilhelmsson, it is also very, very lovely. True, some of the pieces here are better than others. Emil Sjögren could write a catchy melody and an infectious rhythm, but his Erotikon verges on the sentimental and his Sonata in E minor verges on the disorderly. Still, that doesn't stop Wilhelmsson for making his music as attractive as possible through tone, shading, phrasing, pedaling, and a sensitive use of tempo rubato. In the more accomplished works by Wilhelm Stenhammar, Wilhelmsson goes even further. Arguably the finest Swedish composer of the fin de siécle, Stenhammar's Impromptu, Fantasies, and especially his Late Summer Nights are prime examples of his shorter piano works at their best, full of appealing melodies and sensuous harmonies, and Wilhelmsson plays them to perfection. But, significantly, his technical control is never in question and he always keeps an appropriate balance between form and feeling. Captured in clear but intimate sound, these performances may not please listeners looking for the next Schoenberg, but for listeners who already know and love the piano miniatures of Grieg, this disc will be very welcome.

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