this first in 1999 when Hyperion
first issued the set receiving plaudits
for the musicality of the performances
and for their adventurous spirit. Berwald
is not exactly top ‘box office’ material.
The music is not the problem: it is
lively, beautiful, romantic and surprising.
All it needs is to be liberated by a
good recording. There have been quite
a few over the years and the CD era
has however given us something approaching
an explosion of Berwald symphonic recordings.
At bargain price there are two very
fine sets: one from Arte Nova and the
other from Naxos. I have not heard the
latter (Okko Kamu conducts) but the
reviews I have seen suggest it is well
worth hearing. The Arte Nova is very
fine indeed but includes only the four
half hour symphonies on two discs [review].
It does not include the Duncan Druce-completed
fragment (Hyperion are the only source
for this) or the two overtures.
The old EMI Björlin
set is available (I am not sure if everything
on the original EMI boxed set of LPs
has been reissued) in individual discs
but shows its age in recording terms.
The DG Järvi is an estimable set
with glowing virtues but again lacks
the Druce item and the two overtures.
Berwald is such a lively
composer and I have a feeling that many
people who visit this site may never
have given him a chance. I hadn’t until
quite recently and I find him a major
Be clear, Berwald is
not a neo-romantic. His dates should
make that clear anyway. His music blends
the voices of Weber (Freischütz
and Oberon), with Beethoven (the
livelier moments: Symphonies 5 and 7)
and over-arching everything, Schubert.
All the works recorded here are deeply
rewarding lyrical statements and should
be popular with anyone who loves the
music of my cross-reference composers.
His voice is no mere facsimile of these
great names. He adds an idiosyncratic
dash of woodwind sparkle and a prominent
bloom from the French Horns.
The overture to Estrella
da Soria has the bustle of Mozart’s
Marriage of Figaro, the magic
of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer’s Night
Dream music, the heroism of Egmont
and rounded with the romantic glow of
a Tchaikovsky ballet-apotheosis. The
Queen of Golconda has its moments
but Estrella is a gem. The Singulière
is just that and there are some
remarkably prophetic moments in which
Sibelius seems to smile through the
Beethovenian athleticism. Indeed the
Finale of the Singulière has
the explosive rawness of Nielsen - the
brass are especially brazen as if they
have escaped from Nielsen’s first two
symphonies yet written at least half
a century earlier.
Duncan Druce, the renowned
violist, completed the isolated movement
of Berwald’s 1820 A major symphony-fragment.
It was intended to be the first movement
of a Symphony never completed. At more
than 16 minutes it is longer than the
first movement of the four symphonies
of the 1840s. It has a sweetened and
emphatic Beethovenian freshness that
The Golconda overture (one of
his last works) lacks as well as some
remarkably Rossini-like moments (5.10).
The Sérieuse is a work
full of inventive fantasy ahead of its
time. Yes it looks to the Beethoven
of the Eroica and Egmont but
also one finds flavourings from
Dvořák, Mendelssohn and even Tchaikovsky.
The recording of the horns and woodwind
are adroitly balanced throughout producing
a pleasing, delicate and piquant effect.
No other set has the
present coupling. At a stunning price
anyone at all curious would do well
to hear this fine set especially because
the two overtures are not conveniently
available in any other form; of course
the substantial symphonic fragment cannot
otherwise be had. Hyperion cornered
the market with the full price set.
At two for one price the competition
had best look to its laurels.
The box (at last in
slim-line form) is enhanced by the usual
fine design attention and trilingual
notes by conductor Roy Goodman.
The teaming of Goodman
(familiar from some rather good Nimbus
Schubert symphonies) with the Swedish
orchestra was not necessarily going
to be a marriage made in heaven. However
from the results Goodman must surely
have guested with the orchestra, such
is the blessed union evident from these
Deeply rewarding lyrical statements
... a recording capturing the idiosyncratic
woodwind sparkle as well as the prominent
bloom of the French Horns. ... see Full