Franz Berwald: CDs & DVDs: Best CDs & DVDs of Franz Berwald

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Franz Berwald: CDs & DVDs - The Best CDs & DVDs of Franz Berwald

Franz Berwald: Overview

Franz Berwald: Franz Berwald (b. Stockholm, 23 July 1796; d. Stockholm, 3 April 1868).

Franz Berwald was the greatest 19th-century Swedish composer and the finest Scandinavian symphonist before Sibelius. The family came from Germany, settling in Stockholm during the 1770s. His music has strong classical instincts and its many unpredictable touches reflect an exploratory mind, wide in its range of interest and degree of sophistication. This is all the more remarkable when one reflects that he had no formal education, studying the violin with his father and joining the Hovkapellet (the Opera Orchestra) in 1812. Franz Berwald served there either as violinist or violist until 1828, when he obtained a scholarship to study in Berlin. First evidence of any serious creative activity came in 1817 when he composed a concerto for two violins, and a septet. Two quartets followed a year later and in 1819, together with his brother, August, he made a concert tour of Finland and St Petersburg. His works did not always meet with the success they deserved; their modulatory audacities excited hostility in provincial Stockholm and his operatic ambitions were not fulfilled. After unsuccessful attempts to secure performances, he abandoned composition for a while to set up an orthopaedic institute in Berlin, based on Ling's principles as well as his own original thinking. The institute became a great success and flourished for six years.

Franz Berwald's orthopaedic venture occupied much of his energies during the 1830s though he still laboured on operatic projects but in 1841 he sold the institute and went to Vienna. The next decade was without question the most productive of his creative career; practically all the works on which his reputation now rests were produced in this single decade. In Vienna two of his tone poems were warmly received and in 1 842 he composed two symphonies, the Serieuse and the Capricieuse, as well as tonepoems and an opera. His return to Stockholm did not bring him comparable success to that which he had enjoyed in Vienna, and in 1845 his opera, Modehandlarskan, proved a fiasco. The two symphonies he wrote in this year, Sinfonie Singuliere and the Symphony No.4 in E flat remained unperformed. From 1846 to 1849 he travelled In Paris he tried to interest French musical circles in his work but without success. In 1847 Jenny Lind took part in a performance of parts of one of his works, and he was made an honorary member of the Salzburg Mozarteum. Franz Berwald returned to Sweden in 1849, the year of his last two string quartets, disappointed with his lack of real success abroad, and two setbacks in Sweden. Franz Berwald had been passed over as Director of Music at Uppsala and later as conductor of the Hovkapellet.

In 1850 he became manager of a glass works in Northern Sweden becoming part-owner of the firm in 1853, when he was also active in launching a saw mill. Franz Berwald spent a good deal of the year in Stockholm and composed largely for chamber and instrumental forces; both the piano quintets and three of the piano trios were written in the 1 850s. Franz Berwald gave up his business enterprises in the late 1850s and in 1862, the Royal Opera mounted a performance of Estrella di Soria, the opera on which he had worked in the 1840s. Franz Berwald was made a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1864 and Professor of Composition in 1867, only a year before his death. His highly original outlook, particularly in matters of formal layout, prevented his acceptance in the Sweden of his time, and the discovery of his work and its importance is a 20th-century phenomenon.

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