Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

FRANZ BERWALD (1796-1868) Symphonies   Swedish Radio SO/Roy Goodman recorded Stockholm 1995 HYPERION CDA67081-2 2 CDs [145:22]




FRANZ BERWALD (1796-1868)

Symphony No. 1 Sinfonie sérieuse (1842) 30.38
Symphony No. 2 Sinfonie capricieuse (1842) 27.20
Symphony No. 3 Sinfonie Singulière (1845) 27.53
Symphony No. 4 (1845) 27.21
Symphony in A (completed Druce). (1820) 16.34
Estrella de Soria Overture (1862) 7:56
Queen of Golconda Overture (1864) 7:41

Hyperion must first of all receive plaudits for their adventurous spirit. Berwald is not exactly top 'box office' material ... for all the usual tired old reasons. 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. The CD era has however given us a virtual explosion of Berwald symphonic recordings.

There is no shortage of competition for the four Berwald symphonies. 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 symphonies on two discs. it does not include the Duncan Druce-completed fragment or the two overtures.

The old EMI Bjorlin set is available (I am not sure if everything on the original EMI boxed set of LPs has been reissued) in individual discs but is now showing 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 discovery.

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 his works recorded here are deeply rewarding lyrical statements and should be popular with anyone who loves the music of my 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.

No other set has the present coupling. It may be at full price by comparison with some pretty distinguished competition but anyone at all curious would do well to hear this fine set especially because the overtures are not conveniently available in any other form and of course the substantial symphonic fragment is not otherwise available. Hyperion have therefore cornered the market.

The box (and what a pity is that double thickness standard) 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 RSO was not necessarily going to be a marriage made in heaven. However from the results I would have guessed that Goodman must have guested with the orchestra such is the blessed character of these performances.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase


Return to Index