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
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