FRANZ BERWALD (1796-1868)
Theme and Variations (1819)
Tempo di Marcia
Duo for violin and piano
Greta Erikson (piano) Josef
Grünfarb (violin) Swedish Radio Orchestra/Stig Westerberg
first issued on LP 1972
GENESIS GCD 111 [61.41]
The Genesis label was a pioneer in recording the unconsidered corners of
romantic era music way back in the late 1960s. Those thick card LP sleeves
were to be found in specialist import shops like Record Hunter alongside
such esoterica as Poseidon's Hovhaness series and the Louisville Edition.
Prices (at least in the UK) were to match the rarity of these discs. Now
there are multiple romantic piano concerto series: Vox, Naxos and Hyperion.
Genesis are still there and their catalogue, now reissued on CD, comes up
The Berwald Piano Concerto is a delight which can be equated with its soul-mate
the Robert Schumann concerto. It is extremely romantic - scintillating grace
with little or nothing of the vapid about it. The three movements are played
without a break. The performance and startlingly clear (hiss-free) recording
compares very well with the EMI Bjorlin/Migdal recording on Matrix.
The break between the end of the concerto and the pieces for solo piano is
The first three solo piano pieces are from 1818-1820. These all echo and
re-echo with the lighter Beethoven and with the charm of Mozart. The Presto
Feroce (1859-1860) is frankly not all that ferocious. All four solos
are pleasing rather than compelling.
After the shallows comes a work of much greater reach. The Duo is from circa
1860 written during Berwald's chamber music phase - after the symphonies
of the 1840s. The notes point out that the music is often in three parts
with the pianist's right and left hands articulating quite separate parts
while the violin occupies the singer's prerogative. The music is very satisfying
and will appeal to all enthusiasts.
Greta Erikson is a very fine pianist indeed with a poetically balanced touch.
The liner notes are substantial and useful and the disc's virtues are reinforced
by a stunning sessions photo of Westerberg, Erikson and Commagère.
An easily recommendable choice for the fancier of 19th centuy romantica or
those with a predilection for the Schumann, early Beethoven or late Mozart
concertos. The Concerto is very well worth getting to know.