Without hesitation I would agree with those who consider the Stenhammar Serenade his most endearing, well-crafted, dream-filled and best orchestral effort--- if not, as well, the peak of the Swedish symphonic repertoire.
The Serenade went through several permutations (with movements added, deleted, altered or reconfigured) before coming down to us in its five-movement form. This 1986 BIS CD, then, is an even more critical premiere release because it restores to the composition the wonderful "Reverenza" second movement deleted by Stenhammar. (He thought the Serenade too "long" with the "Reverenza" in place. Amazing!) Now, with the Serenade's fully realized six-movements intact, we hear a work so infinitely attractive, so elegiac, so heart-warming and nurturing that it's virtually impossible to believe its foothold in this country is nominal, as well as its absence from concert halls and CD bins.
From the very opening "Overtura," we enter a wistful dreamscape, solo violin singing, weaving through episodes of swelling melody and haunting chorale-like passages, all leading to the unique "Reverenza," whose well-named "tranquillo e grazioso" marking is indeed "reverential," yet impish. The following "Canzonetta" is the Serenade's all-embracing and bountiful "heart," its deep-set nostalgia and yearning possibly the most lyrically touching of all Stenhammar inspirations. We seque directly into the "Scherzo," a jaunty presto, before co-joining with the tranquil fantasy of the magnificent fifth movement "Notturno," where a spectral ambience may just belie the pastoral. The "Finale" breaks through, however, the phantasmagorical dissipates, and we awake from the "spell" realizing, perhaps, that "there are more things in heaven and hell than are dreamt of."
Throughout, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Jarvi are exemplary at keeping the atmosphere "magical," as are the recording engineers. One may quibble about the CD timing, and not without cause; however, there is simply no better performance of the Serenade than this.
[Running time: 43:33]