Wilhelm Stenhammar

Swedish pianist, composer and conductor (Stockholm, 1871 – Stockholm, 1927)

Wilhelm Stenhammar was a Swedish composer influenced in his early works by late 19th century German Romanticism. He later developed a much more personal style.

Son of composer Per Ulrik Stenhammar (1828-1875), Wilhelm Stenhammar played the piano and began composing as a child. He studied theory, composition and organ, then completed his piano training in Berlin for two years with Heinrich Bath (1892-1893). After a short position of organist in Stockholm, he became conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic Society, a function he kept occupying throughout his life, while also touring with the Aulin Quartet as pianist, soloist or accompanist.

Influenced in his youth by German music, especially by the compositions of Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner, Wilhelm Stenhammar tended to compose with a simple and concise style. His symphonic work demonstrated a certain lyrical talent, and as a true Romantic nationalist, he found inspiration in the Swedish popular music.

Progressively, Wilhelm Stenhammar got away from this German heritage to write purely Swedish music, in which Johannes Brahms and Jean Sibelius’s influence stood out. The latter was indeed one of Stenhammar’s great admirers and closest peer.

As a brilliant pianist, Wilhelm Stenhammar left works for piano and chamber music of the highest quality, which are undoubtedly the most accomplished pieces of this genre ever written by any Swedish musician.

Six landmark dates in the life of Wilhelm Stenhammar:

1893: First tours as a pianist
1897: Made his debut as a conductor by directing his Concert Overture Excelsior! 1904: Artistic Director of Stockholm New Philharmonic Society
1906: Director of the Gothenburg Orchestral Society
1909: Professor at the Uppsala University
1924: Appointed director of the Stockholm Royal Theatre

Six key works by Wilhelm Stenhammar:

1891: Norrland Op. 5 for men's voices and orchestra
1892: Creation in Stockholm of I Rosengard (In a rose garden) for soloists, choir and orchestra which attracts attention.
1908: Creation of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in Gothenburg
1910: Two Sentimental Romances for violin and orchestra, Op. 28
1915: Creation of Symphony No. 2 Op. 34 in Gothenburg
1916: String Quartet No. 6 Op. 35

Biography from Radio France’s Musical Documentation, November 2013