Berwald: Quartet in E flat for Piano &Wind; Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor; Grand Septet in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Berwald
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Quartet in E flat for Piano &Wind; Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor; Grand Septet in B flat
PERFORMER: Gaudier Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66834
Saw-mill and glass-works manager, orthopaedic pioneer, polemicist and publisher – Franz Berwald was all these, so it’s astonishing that he ever found the time to compose. He was largely unrecognised during his lifetime, and the Sinfonie singulière (No. 3, 1845) is the only one of his works that most listeners, adventurous ones at that, are likely to encounter with any regularity.

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Berwald’s chamber music, every bit as distinctive and engaging as his symphonies and concertos, is enjoying a minor revival, and releases of the stature of this newcomer from the Gaudier Ensemble should ensure that it’s not just another flash in the pan. The ‘Grand Septet’ (echoes of Hummel and, of course, Beethoven) of 1828 remains Berwald’s most familiar non-orchestral composition. This reading instantly outclasses all previous recordings of the work, supposedly a revision of an eponymous 1817 score.

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The F minor Trio (1851), second of five, is a fiery, impulsive creation, owing much to Mendelssohn; this account is readily compelling. The earliest work here is the Quartet for piano and wind of 1819, not ground-breaking, but attractively crafted, and winningly played by the Gaudier Ensemble. Hyperion’s recording, like the performances themselves, sounds freshly minted and vividly detailed. A major addition to the Berwald discography – unreservedly recommended. Michael Jameson