Franz Berwald (1796-1868)

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01Little Berwald20151221

Donald Macleod explores Franz Berwald's early years, from his violin recital aged 9 in front of the Swedish Royal Court to his first compositions and his ever-robust response to reviewers.

It was only after his death that Franz Berwald acquired his reputation as Sweden's great symphonist. During his lifetime his music was largely dismissed or ignored. To make ends meet he pursued several other careers alongside composition and proved to have a sharp business mind. He made a living as an early physiotherapist, dabbled in publishing and ran a saw-mill and a glass works. Once, when he was asked if he was a composer his reply was "No, I'm a glassblower".

Both the man and his music were often misunderstood. We now appreciate his musical legacy, particularly his symphonies and opera overtures, his tone poems and his music for violin. But relatively little of his music was performed in his own lifetime - and that which was performed was sometimes badly received and reviewed. A reputation for arrogance and reserve probably didn't help either and he was outspoken in his criticism of the Swedish musical establishment. Yet he was also capable of great generosity to friends, students, and even to complete strangers. Donald Macleod tells the story of a composer whose work was too often neglected in his own lifetime but who was eventually hailed in Sweden as "our most original and modern orchestral composer".

Today Donald Macleod explores Berwald's early years. Born in Stockholm into a family of musicians who hailed from Germany, he was soon encouraged to develop his own musical talents. He took up the violin and made his public debut at the age of 9. Soon after that "Little Berwald", as he was known, played before the Court in Stockholm. As a young man his skills on the violin earned him a place in the Opera Orchestra in Stockholm but he soon put that aside to concentrate on composing and, in an early indication of his business acumen, to run a publishing venture. There's also Berwald's stinging retort to an early bad review and the origins of his life-long rivalry with his cousin Johann Frederik.

Symphony Singuliere (No. 3 in C Major) - I. Allegro fuocoso

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Roy Goodman, conductor

Violin Concerto in C Sharp minor, Op. 2

Tobias Ringborg, violin

Swedish Chamber Orchestra

Niklas Willén, conductor

String Quartet No. 1 in G minor - IV. Allegretto

The Yggdrasil Quartet

Elfenspiel - Tone Painting for Large Orchestra

Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Dausgaard, conductor.

02A New Career20151222

Seeking escape from Sweden, Franz Berwald flees to Germany. Donald Macleod recalls the composer's encounter with Mendelssohn and his new career in Berlin - as a physiotherapist

It was only after his death that Franz Berwald acquired his reputation as Sweden's great symphonist. During his lifetime his music was largely dismissed or ignored. To make ends meet he pursued several other careers alongside composition and proved to have a sharp business mind. He made a living as an early physiotherapist, dabbled in publishing and ran a saw-mill and a glass works. Once, when he was asked if he was a composer his reply was "No, I'm a glassblower".

Both the man and his music were often misunderstood. We now appreciate his musical legacy, particularly his symphonies and opera overtures, his tone poems and his music for violin. But relatively little of his music was performed in his own lifetime - and that which was performed was sometimes badly received and reviewed. A reputation for arrogance and reserve probably didn't help either and he was outspoken in his criticism of the Swedish musical establishment. Yet he was also capable of great generosity to friends, students, and even to complete strangers. Donald Macleod tells the story of a composer whose work was too often neglected in his own lifetime but who was eventually hailed in Sweden as "our most original and modern orchestral composer".

In 1829 Berwald had pulled together enough money to leave Sweden for Germany where, perhaps, he felt his music would be better appreciated. As Donald Macleod recalls, once in Berlin he struck up a friendship with another young Swede, Henric Munktell, who introduced him to Felix Mendelssohn. Unfortunately, the two composers didn't hit it off: Mendelssohn wasn't too impressed by Berwald's music and thought the young man arrogant. Soon after - and for the rest of the twelve years he spent in Berlin - Berwald abandoned music and embarked on a surprising new career in the emerging field of orthopaedics. He turned out to be a skilled practitioner and particularly successful working with children with spinal deformities.

Concert Piece for bassoon and orchestra

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

Sir Neville Mariner, conductor

Reminiscences from the Norwegian Mountains

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Ulf Björlin, conductor

Grand Septet B flat major - I. Introduzione: Adagio - Allegro Molto

Berlinner Oktett

The Battle of Leipzig - Tone Painting

Malmö Opera Orchestra

Niklas Willén, conductor.

03Serious And Joyful Fancies20151223

Donald Macleod considers the most creative period of Franz Berwald's life, during which he composed the symphonies which are his lasting legacy.

It was only after his death that Franz Berwald acquired his reputation as Sweden's great symphonist. During his lifetime his music was largely dismissed or ignored. To make ends meet he pursued several other careers alongside composition and proved to have a sharp business mind. He made a living as an early physiotherapist, dabbled in publishing and ran a saw-mill and a glass works. Once, when he was asked if he was a composer his reply was "No, I'm a glassblower".

Both the man and his music were often misunderstood. We now appreciate his musical legacy, particularly his symphonies and opera overtures, his tone poems and his music for violin. But relatively little of his music was performed in his own lifetime - and that which was performed was sometimes badly received and reviewed. A reputation for arrogance and reserve probably didn't help either and he was outspoken in his criticism of the Swedish musical establishment. Yet he was also capable of great generosity to friends, students, and even to complete strangers. Donald Macleod tells the story of a composer whose work was too often neglected in his own lifetime but who was eventually hailed in Sweden as "our most original and modern orchestral composer".

By the late 1830s, Franz Berwald had made a name for himself in Berlin - but not as a composer. Soon after he wrote his tone poem Serious and Joyful Fancies he had put aside his music to establish a very successful orthopaedic institute - a treatment at which he proved to be a skilled practitioner. However, by 1841 he was ready to embark on a new lease of life. He married Mathilde Scherer, who at 24 was nearly half Berwald's age, and the couple moved to Vienna where Franz once again took up music. Donald Macleod recounts the most creative period of Berwald's life, the years in which he composed his four symphonies - only one of which he would actually hear in his lifetime.

Serious and Joyful Fancies - Symphonic Tone Poem

Gavle Symphony Orchestra

Petri Sakari, conductor

Symphony Serieuse (No. 1 in G minor) - I. Allegro con energia

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Järvi, conductor

String Quartet in E flat major

The Frydén String Quartet

Symphony Capricieuse (No. 2) - III. Finale: Allegro assai

Malmö Symphony Orchestra

Sixten Ehrling, conductor.

04I'm A Glassblower20151224

Donald Macleod focuses on Franz Berwald's operas, the young musicians he nurtured and, beyond music, the business acumen which saw him managing a glassworks and later a saw-mill.

It was only after his death that Franz Berwald acquired his reputation as Sweden's great symphonist. During his lifetime his music was largely dismissed or ignored. To make ends meet he pursued several other careers alongside composition and proved to have a sharp business mind. He made a living as an early physiotherapist, dabbled in publishing and ran a saw-mill and a glass works. Once, when he was asked if he was a composer his reply was "No, I'm a glassblower".

Both the man and his music were often misunderstood. We now appreciate his musical legacy, particularly his symphonies and opera overtures, his tone poems and his music for violin. But relatively little of his music was performed in his own lifetime - and that which was performed was sometimes badly received and reviewed. A reputation for arrogance and reserve probably didn't help either and he was outspoken in his criticism of the Swedish musical establishment. Yet he was also capable of great generosity to friends, students, and even to complete strangers. Donald Macleod tells the story of a composer whose work was too often neglected in his own lifetime but who was eventually hailed in Sweden as "our most original and modern orchestral composer".

By 1849 Berwald was struggling financially. A second journey abroad to develop his music and build an audience had achieved little and he returned home to Stockholm, disheartened and disappointed. The Swedish musical establishment once again turned its back on him and he was overlooked for two key musical posts which might have brought him financial security. He had to look elsewhere for employment and found himself managing the Sandö glassworks in the north-east of Sweden. He was very successful in the role and was soon offered partnership in the firm. He later diversified into running a saw-mill. Donald Macleod also recalls how Berwald supported and nurtured the careers of young musicians, including the pianist Hilda Thegerström and the soprano Christina Nilsson.

Den 4 Juli 1844 (Konung Oscar)

Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano

Bengt Forsburg, piano

'By Dark Thoughts Eternally Tormented' - Aria from Estrella di Soria

Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra

Lena Nordin, soprano

Stig Westerberg, conductor

Piano Trio No.1 in E flat major

Bernt Lysell, violin

Ola Karlsson, cello

Lucia Negra, piano

Piano Quintet No.1 in C minor - III. Allegro assai e con spirito

The Gaudier Ensemble

Susan Tomes, piano

'Queen of Golconda' - Overture

Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Roy Goodman, conductor.

05Feeling And Reason20151225
05Feeling And Reason20151225

Donald Macleod explores Franz Berwald's last years, in which he sees his opera Estrella de Soria staged and is finally admitted as a Fellow of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.

It was only after his death that Franz Berwald acquired his reputation as Sweden's great symphonist. During his lifetime his music was largely dismissed or ignored. To make ends meet he pursued several other careers alongside composition and proved to have a sharp business mind. He made a living as an early physiotherapist, dabbled in publishing and ran a saw-mill and a glass works. Once, when he was asked if he was a composer his reply was "No, I'm a glassblower".

Both the man and his music were often misunderstood. We now appreciate his musical legacy, particularly his symphonies and opera overtures, his tone poems and his music for violin. But relatively little of his music was performed in his own lifetime - and that which was performed was sometimes badly received and reviewed. Donald Macleod tells the story of a composer whose work was too often neglected in his own lifetime but who was eventually hailed in Sweden as "our most original and modern orchestral composer".

Today Donald explores Berwald's lifelong love of opera. Sadly, it was a largely unrequited love: it took over twenty years for his romantic grand opera Estrella di Soria to be performed. At the time Berwald was running a brick-making factory. He wrote his last opera, the Queen of Golconda with his talented pupil Christina Nilsson in mind for the title role of the beautiful, widowed queen. Sadly, Berwald never saw Nilsson - or indeed anybody else - playing the queen - the opera was never performed in his lifetime.

Although Berwald stuck his contemporaries as arrogant and reserved, underneath the forbidding, haughty exterior there was actually a man of compassion, generosity, even humour. He once said, "Art may be coupled only with a cheerful frame of mind. The weak-willed should have nothing to do with it. Even if interesting for a moment, in the end every sighing artist will bore listeners to death. Therefore: liveliness and energy - feeling and reason"

Overture to Estrella de Soria

Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

Sten Broman, conductor

Du hatar ej den sorg (You hate not the grief) - Aria from Queen of Golconda

Royal Orchestra Stockholm

Elizabeth Söderström, soprano

Stig Westerberg, conductor

Symphony No. 1 in G minor (Sérieuse) - II. Adagio maestoso

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Herbert Blomstedt, conductor

String Quartet in A minor - Finale: Allegro molto

The Frydén String Quartet

Symphony No. 3 in C Major (Singulière) - II. Adagio and III. Finale: Presto

Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, conductor.