The company

Sterling is a record label specialising in orchestral music from the Romantic era, founded by Bo Hyttner. Most of the CDs released by Sterling contain previously unrecorded works.

After setting out with Swedish romantics, Sterling is now spreading out towards the musical heritage of other European countries. In Sweden, the label is represented through Sterling Music Distribution.


Additional to our series of Romantic orchestral classics, we release two more series:

- The Artist series, dedicated to musical excellence from Swedish performers

- The Historical Recordings series, with many unique pieces of musical heritage taken from the Swedish Radio Archives.


It has been said that the romantic music started with Ludwig van Beethoven. He revolutionized music writing and changed the history of music. Much concerned the Symphony.
Beethoven enlarged the symphony and made it a personal and engaging musical message.Since Beethoven, many composers developed the symphony. They understood the concept of lush beautiful melodies, crescendos, diminuendoes. In the coming years after Beethoven's death several composers came to be wellknown, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovskij, Bruckner and Mahler, Sibelius and a few others came to dominate the concert scene.

The wellknown and the unknown

The orchestra developed into a body from perhaps 30 to around 80, sometimes adding harp and extra percussion. The symphony orchestra, as we know it, we founded,apart from the biggest countries in Europe, also in the smaller countries. Sweden had at the turn of the century 1900 only one fully professional symphony orchestra. This meant that a whole generation of composers at that time wrote very promising works that were performed perhaps only once! The chance was therefore small for the audience to learn to know a work properly through repetitive hearing was small. Repetetive hearing is important to learn to know the work properly.

The audiences and the Gramophone

The Gramophone, originally a trademark, developed and with this equipment music listening was revolutionized. Now repetitive hearing became a real possibility. Today (2017) there are young people that have never seen a gramophone. We can listen to the Berliner Philharmonic any minute by our smart phone. We can talk about a second revolution in music hearing. There were earlier among fans a distinctive difference between the audience going to a concert and those listening to records. Those going to concerts wanted to hear what they always have heard while the gramophone listeners wanted to hear what they never have heard. Today, the committées deciding the concert programmes have started to include more unknown music from the past in order to attract the CD buyers.

The question of style

In 1912 there was a dramatic change of style in classical music writing with Stravinskys Rite of Spring.You could certainly call this a revolution. The melody came in the background and the rythm became the most important element in the music. The problem with this is that the audiences still wanted melody. So they turned into operettas, later jazz and pop music. Since it is normally not compulsary to go to concerts, people failed to understand 12 tone music, dissonances and so on. So it has become more important again to write melodies today among classical composers. Otherwise the listener will not turn up.

Is musical history correct?

Those composers who 'survived' into our time are these the best ones? Many times we read in columns about this unjustly neglected composer. Why were they neglected? Is it because those composers were uninterested or simply unqualified for survival? There are in fact many reasons why a composer became neglected, which basically was not due to incompetence. Without being a musical scolar I can only indicate some reasons:
a) They lived in a small country without a strong musical tradition. This goes for The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden. Countries like Norway and Finland could only at times harbour one great composer. The others stayed behind at least in the concert halls. We are happy to have discovered perhaps the foremost Dutch composer in his time, Bernard Zweers. We have recorded all three of his symphonies. Hans Huber,the formost Swiss romantic in his time, is another example. I discovered his name, appearing in several dictionaries. The reason was that I saw what Grooves said about Herman Suter, which I admired. His teacher was Hans Huber. And he is until now our greatest romantic discovery, thanks to the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker who recorded all 8 of Hubers symphonies on our label. Look at 'The Third Man', Orson Welles famous film. In Pratern, in the great wheel, Welles says to Joseph Cotton: 'War is good for creativity. Look at the Swiss, what have they accomplished during 500 years of peace, the Coco Clock.' Of course that is nonsense, but I believe that the attitude towards your own cultural heritage is influenced a lot by such prejudice.
b) The style they composed in became obsolete. After 1912 and the Rite of Spring and in the wake of the times, romantic music became obsolote. Very few composers carried on in the romantic tradition after world war 1. Those were in general Max Bruch, Camille Saint-Saëns, Sergei Rachmaninov, who all survived world war 1 and stayed in the romantic idiom in their writing. Alfred Hill, the formost Australian romantic died in 1950...Some composers, perhaps in order to stay in people's mind changed style, Enescu, Busoni, Schoenberg, just to mention a few. The results were sometimes not overwhelming.
c) Promising start and then stop. Some composers had excellent starts. They received prizes, were hailed as new Mozart, New Beethoven, and so on and then fell into neglect. It is interesting to read about them in old concert program. In one instance a composer, totally forgotten today wrote a Festival Ouverture performed once in 1902 in the States. The ouverture was squeezed into a substantial programme including at least 3 hours of orchestral music, by Brahms, Mozart and more. If the performance was conducted indifferently or the orchestra was playing less than convincingly the composer was doomed to neglect. It is sometimes quite depressing to read about these composers, since some of them became depressed, going through crisises,even contemplating suicide or leaving the profession entirely.
d) Something is missing. Of course one could find this among the unknown lesser talents. The thematic material is average, overused, the treatment of the material is week, the end result is 'meaningless notespinning' as one critic said about a work. But the music could be competent, charming and the creator has shown great skill but there is still something missing. It has been said that these composers 'have everything in their compositions apart from qualities that makes it eternal.'
e) Unusual instrumentations or lenght. Some composers experimented a lot and ended up with original ideas which could not be accomplished in practicality. On example which comes to mind, albeit inom Oper is Uthal by Mehul. There were not to be any strings in the orchestra...
f) Political reasons. It is sad to say that Paul Büttner, who was the most famous composer in Dresden apart from Richard Strauss before World War two, became 'unerwünscht' because he stayed with his Jewish wife against the wish of the nazists in the 30thies. He was a truly brave man but his music stayed unknown after World War two, despite his very able and strong writing. We recorded his symphony 3 (CDS 1048)
g) Missing parts. Due to the bombardment of Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden during the war, much parts burned which made it very expensive to do new parts. I have a book from 1812 which contains some very fascinating names. The original scores were saved (much is with Fleisher in Philadelphia) but despite the use of computors to do parts, it is very expensive to do a CD based on computerized parts. The music could be great, overwhelming, but is only avaliable for scolars who can sightread scores.

The family matter

During the more than 20 years that Sterling has managed to 'dig up' unknown romantic music I have been in contact with ancestors. It has been a great honour and indeed privilegue to talk to those family members, who suddenly have rediscovered their grand father's or great grand father's music. It is equally great, when the music then is being heard over the radio. The feedback is truly great for us!

A wonderful failure

Have we been able at find another Beethoven, Tchaikovskij, Brahms, Bruch, Mahler, Bruckner? So far the answer is no. We are proud that at last Joachim Raff has been rediscovered. His music is definely at times in par with the greatest. And he was certainly wellknown during his life time. But the question remains. In view of the fact that Riemanns musical dictionary lists at least 300-400 names of forgotten composers who wrote concertos, operas, symphonies, symphonic poems and the like, then perhaps who knows? We have found a number of good composers, who wrote good memorable works, but so far we have failed in finding someone who could have changed musical history. There are also a number of other labels ventering into this vast musical field. But as I said; who knows what is still out there? We can all benefit from trying, happy listening

Bo Hyttner, Sterling

© 2017 Sterling, Stockholm, Sweden