Berwald: Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor; Duo for Piano and Violin in D; Piano Trio No. 4 in C

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COMPOSERS: Berwald
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor; Duo for Piano and Violin in D; Piano Trio No. 4 in C
PERFORMER: Susan Tomes (piano) Gaudier Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66835
The 19th-century maverick Swedish composer Franz Berwald is best known as a symphonist – above all, for his Sinfonie singulière, whose formal experiments include the amalgamation of a scherzo within its slow movement. Much the same happens in his C minor Piano Quintet: hardly has its agitated, opening Allegro got under way than it is interrupted by a gracefully balletic scherzo. There’s no denying the individuality of Berwald’s voice, but the structural logic is hard to grasp, particularly when the music itself is often, harmonically, rather aimless.

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The remainder of the music recorded here is less ambitious. The Duo for violin and piano is attractively fresh and spring-like; but the C major Trio is at best patchy, juxtaposing moments of extreme banality with ideas of greater worth. All these pieces are persuasively played by the Gaudier Ensemble (a pity, though, that the piano tuner appears not to have been on hand for the finale of the quintet), and those interested in the byways of the Romantic repertoire will certainly find their curiosity aroused. For more lasting rewards, however, one would have to look elsewhere. Misha Donat