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Cat. No. CHAN 10303 Price: £5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10303 - Berwald: Symphony No.1/ Symphony No. 2
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Available From: 11 April 2005
"Berwald’s early works provoked strong criticism in conservative Stockholm. To escape the constricting atmosphere, Berwald decided to try his luck in Berlin. However, he failed to secure a single public performance and socially remained an outsider on account of his awkward personality. Artistically, though, his time in Berlin was fruitful – during his twelve-year stay there his musical language changed decisively towards a markedly contrapuntal idiom. This new style is exemplified by the orchestral works – four symphonies and six symphonic poems – he composed after a long silence (and, evidently, hard study) in a surge of creativity during just four years, from July 1841 to April 1845. The works on this disc date from this period.

Three of the tone poems from this time, including the Erinnerung an die norwegischen Alpen, were first performed in Vienna in 1842, exactly a year after Berwald had left Berlin. They received enthusiastic reviews and this success prompted Berwald to return to Stockholm. His luck was short-lived. The official acceptance of a two-act operetta by the Royal Theatre was repeatedly postponed, a concert aroused minimal interest, and the premiere of his Sinfonie sérieuse was a disaster – the director of the court orchestra (a cousin of Berwald’s) had allowed hardly any time for rehearsal. After this unhappy premiere, it seems that Berwald wanted to protect all his later symphonies from similarly inadequate performances and none of them was heard during his lifetime. It is uncertain whether Berwald ever wrote out a full score of the Sinfonie capricieuse – it only survives in short score draft. However, the symphony is virtually complete, for Berwald noted not only the layout of the parts but also countless details of instrumentation. Unusual in form, the symphony is quintessential Berwald, with its sharp-edged upbeats, offbeat accents and transparency of structure.

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Reviews

It is difficult to know why the music of Franz Berwald has never caught on in a big way. As a near-contemporary of Mendelssohn and Schumann, e was often more forward-looking that either, though his surviving body of work is much smaller. This conclusion to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra/DR’s cycle sets the seal on what is perhaps the finest of the lot, with playing that sparkles, and conducting from Thomas Dausgaard that captures both the energy and idiosyncrasies of Berwald’s creative imagination.
The Telegraph

What is of much greater moment is the excellence of the Danish orchestras response to this sparkling and original music which Dausgaard shapes with fine musical imagination… in short, quite the best Berwald disc we have had for some years.
BBC Music Magazine

…performed with startling precision by Dausgaard and the DNRSO…
The Observer

This is one of the finest Berwald recordings I have ever heard… easily recommendable to anyone still unsure about Berwald.
American Record Guide

Chandos now follows Thomas Dausgaard’s earlier accounts of the Singulière and the E flat symphonies with the remaining two both from 1842. The Capricieuse was discovered among Berwald’s papers in short score but with indications as to its orchestration. Duasgaard, like his rivals, uses the scholarly edition made by Niels Castegren (at one time head of music at Swedish Radio) and his fine reading makes an excellent case for this fascinating piece and its immediate predecessor, the Sinfonie sérieuse, the only one of the symphonies Berwald heard in his lifetime. Tempos are well judged throughout and the performances are full of character.
BBC Music Magazine

 

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