Brahms, Sibelius, Stenhammer

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Sibelius,Stenhammer
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Five Songs, Op. 105; Vier ernste Gesänge, Op. 121
PERFORMER: Håkan Hagegård (baritone), Warren Jones (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68097 2
A group of Sibelius songs were sung to an ageing Brahms in Vienna in 1894 by the Finnish mezzo-soprano Ida Ekman. Two years later, Brahms travelled to Clara Schumann’s funeral, and soon afterwards wrote his Four Serious Songs, a year before his own death. Those meetings of mind and spirit are celebrated in this imaginatively planned and generous recital, and focussed most eloquently in the voice of the Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard.

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Two of those Op 17 Finnish-language songs which Brahms heard are performed here in their Swedish versions, as Hagegard and his pianist Warren Jones recreate the shimmering light of evening and the movement of water in ‘Till kvallen’ and ‘Spanet pa vattnet’. Hagegard holds Brahms’s songs of dream, lament and betrayal lightly in the Five Songs of his Op 105. And for ‘Wie Melodien zieht es’ he intensely imagines and recreates the sense of thought as melody, passing breath-like through the spirit. The Four Serious Songs are given fervent and energetic performances, perfectly paced for the colour and weight of Hagegard’s voice.

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Both Brahms and Sibelius influenced Wilhelm Stenhammar. Hagegard and Jones capture both the strangeness and poignancy of his little fantasy-parable, ‘Prince Aladdin of the Lamp’ and the ballad of Florez and Blanzeflor which frame ‘Adagio’ and ‘Stjarnoga’, unfolded gently by Hagegard as two Golden Age soundscapes. Hilary Finch