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Berwald: Overtures, Concertos, Symphonies / Bjorlin


Release Date: 10/02/2007 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 00920   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Franz Berwald
Performer:  Marian MigdalArve Tellefsen
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 33 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Well worth investigating, then, if you are new to Berwald’s world.

The Swedish composer Franz Berwald came from a musical family; his father, taught him the violin from an early age. He soon appeared in concerts and started working in the Royal Chapel in 1812, playing the violin in the court orchestra and the opera, and embarking on his first compositions. His Violin Concerto was first performed by his brother August in 1821, but was not a success. Berwald received a scholarship from the Swedish King, enabling him to study in Berlin, but to make ends meet he was forced to start a physiotherapy clinic there which proved to be significantly more successful, so much so that he was forced to stop composing for a time.
Read more Indeed throughout his life Berwald was a businessman first and composer second; on his return to Sweden he later became manager of a sawmill and glassworks!

After his marriage and a move to Vienna he resumed composition in 1841. Over the course of the next few years Berwald wrote the four symphonies heard on these CDs. The Symphony No. 1 in G minor, "Sérieuse", was the only one of his symphonies he heard during his lifetime. Indeed it was not until many years after his death, with performances of the remaining symphonies, that Berwald’s originality as a composer began to be appreciated. Nevertheless his works rarely appear on concert programmes although there have been several recordings by distinguished advocates such as Sixten Ehrling and Igor Markevitch. The present set, containing the majority of Berwald’s surviving oeuvre, was recorded in London in 1976 and issued the following year. This could not have been familiar music to the RPO back then - indeed it probably still isn’t - and there are signs here and there of unfamiliarity; nevertheless this is an inexpensive way of getting to know Berwald’s music, even if individual performances have been bettered elsewhere.

The four symphonies are given well-crafted performances, perhaps just lacking the last degree of panache. The Sinfonie singulière, probably Berwald’s best-known work, has an energy and imagination which is not always apparent in his other works or indeed in any music of its time. Robert Layton likens the symphony’s transparent textures to the quality of light found in northern hemispheres, and there is certainly something luminous about Berwald’s scoring. Sometimes, surprisingly, it is the music of Nielsen which is called to mind, even the title of the opening movement, Allegro fuocoso, has a Nielsen-like ring to it. The slow movement is in Berwald’s most lyrical vein, and imaginatively encloses the scherzo within it, a structural device that Berwald was to use on several occasions. The finale brings the symphony to a suitably energetic conclusion. This work was not heard until 1905!

The Sinfonie sérieuse has a fresh, open-air feel to it that at times recalls Dvo?ák. There is a long-drawn lyricism in the slow movement, while his scherzo brings Mendelssohn’s fairies to mind, while in the Capricieuse Berwald strives to create a sense of structural unity by using recurring themes in the first movement, rather like Schumann in his Fourth Symphony. The work as we know it today is the result of a painstaking reconstruction from Berwald’s sketches, the full score having disappeared shortly after Berwald’s death. The E flat Symphony, contemporary with the Sinfonie singulière, is a slighter work but still pleasant to listen to.

Berwald’s two concertos are given stirring performances by Marian Migdal and Arve Tellefsen. Both are charming but hardly in the bravura tradition of other nineteenth century concertos. The rest of this set is filled out with a number of overtures and symphonic poems which demonstrate different aspects to the Swedish composer’s muse.

Well worth investigating, then, if you are new to Berwald’s world. Sound throughout is well-balanced analogue stereo and there are good introductory notes in the booklet.

-- Ewan McCormick, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Drottningen av Golconda: Overture by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 7 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
2. Estrella de Soria: Overture "Tragic" by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 7 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
3. Symphony no 1 in G minor "Sérieuse" by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 27 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
4. Symphony no 2 in D major "Capricieuse" by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 23 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
5. Symphony no 3 in C major "Singulière" by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 29 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
6. Symphony no 4 in E flat major by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 28 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
7. Concerto for Piano in D major by Franz Berwald
Performer:  Marian Migdal (Piano)
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 20 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
8. Elfenspiel by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 8 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
9. Erinnerung an die norwegischen Alpen by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 8 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
10. Concerto for Violin in C sharp minor, Op. 2 by Franz Berwald
Performer:  Arve Tellefsen (Violin)
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1820; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 21 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
11. Wettlauf by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 9 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
12. Bayaderen-Fest Overture by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 11 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 
13. Ernste und heitere Grillen by Franz Berwald
Conductor:  Ulf Björlin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Sweden 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 8 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London (01/08/1976 - 09/10/1976) 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 3 in C, 'Sinfonie singulière' (1994 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro fuocoso
Symphony No. 3 in C, 'Sinfonie singulière' (1994 Digital Remaster): II. Adagio
Symphony No. 3 in C, 'Sinfonie singulière' (1994 Digital Remaster): III. Finale (presto)
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, 'Sinfonie sérieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): i. Allegro con energia
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, 'Sinfonie sérieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): II. Adagio maestoso
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, 'Sinfonie sérieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): III. Stretto
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, 'Sinfonie sérieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): IV. Finale (Adagio - Allegro molto
Play of the Elves (1994 Digital Remaster)
Estrella de Soria (1994 Digital Remaster)
Reminiscences from the Norwegian mountains (1994 Digital Remaster)
Racing (1994 Digital Remaster)
Symphony No. 2, 'Sinfonie capricieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): i. Allegro
Symphony No. 2, 'Sinfonie capricieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): II. Andante
Symphony No. 2, 'Sinfonie capricieuse' (1994 Digital Remaster): III. Finale (Allegro assai)
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major (1994 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro risoluto
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major (1994 Digital Remaster): II. Adagio
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major (1994 Digital Remaster): III. Scherzo (Allegro molto) & Trio
Symphony No. 4 in E flat major (1994 Digital Remaster): IV. Finale (Allegro vivace)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 Breezy light music from the early Romantic period March 10, 2014 By Ian B. (NYC, NY) See All My Reviews "While Berwald's music is not particularly memorable, it is very enjoyable nonetheless. This particular recording offers a fairly comprehensive overview of Berwald's orchestral output. The recordings are crisp and the sonics are clear. I would recommend these recordings." Report Abuse
 Great music!! June 4, 2013 By Jerry G.  (Denver, CO) See All My Reviews "Not often do I enjoy every track on a CD. This is an exception. I love every track on all three CD's. I had heard of Berwald, but never any of his music. Great price, great music, a refreshing find." Report Abuse
 Swedish Gold November 26, 2012 By V. Rufino (Succasunna, NJ) See All My Reviews "Berwald is not a composer with whom American audiences are familiar. A contemporary of Beethoven, his music has characteristics of both the early and middle Romantic period. I became familiar with his music through a cellist in the NY Philharmonic who enjoyed playing his works under Kurt Mazur. This collection will provide hours of listening pleasure. The orchestra plays with good tone and intonation. I cannot compare the interpretations since I have no other recordings of the works. At this bargain price, snap-up a copy and explore music that is not part of the typical Western canon collection." Report Abuse
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