(For music lovers.) We went to a concert this afternoon in the wonderful Musikaliska concert hall in Stockholm, attracted there (for my part) by a performance of William Walton’s Violin Concerto, which I knew from recordings but had never heard live before. It’s a fine and exciting work, underperformed, I think – certainly in Sweden – but played here superbly well by Alexander Kagan (vln) and the Norlandsoperans Symfoniorkester – a ‘regional’ Swedish band, though you wouldn’t guess it from hearing them. The conductor, to whom of course should go most of the credit for the performance, was one JoAnn [sic] Falletta: one of the new breed of female conductors who are at last beginning to make it in this most male-dominated of worlds. It was glorious.
Flanking the Concerto were two other works. The first was a kind of concert overture, Camelopardalis 9, by another woman, Andrea Tarrodi, a young blonde Swede (sorry for the cliché), which blew us away: pastoral, sonorous, thickly and ingeniously orchestrated, with echoes (but not too many) of Debussy, Stravinsky and Forest Murmurs – utterly moving. I must see if she’s on CD.
The third item was a disappointment to me, shown up I think by the preceding works. It was Stenhammar’s Second Symphony: boring, repetitive, superficial, with no decent tunes or original ideas. But then I’ve never, even after all these years in Sweden, taken to Stenhammar. During the performance I caught myself wondering why he bothered? Kajsa liked the symphony better, but then she’s Swedish, and a better musician than I am; and may be able to hear things in it I can’t.
Sweden has better composers than this – Alven, Larsson, Berwald – but none of the stature of its neighbours’ best: Sibelius, Grieg, Nielsen. I’ve no idea why. Perhaps the Swedes might claim Sibelius as one of their own. He was a Swedish-Finn, after all.