Berwald: Sinfonie singulière; Symphony No. 4 in E flat; Elfenspiel

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sinfonie singulière; Symphony No. 4 in E flat; Elfenspiel
PERFORMER: Danish National RSO/Thomas Dausgaard
A month separates these two symphonies: the Singulière was written in March 1845 and the E flat in April. Neither was performed in Berwald’s lifetime: the E flat was not heard until 1878 and the Singulière had to wait until 1905, 60 years after its composition, for its premiere. It is not only the finest of his symphonies but arguably the best Swedish symphony of any period. In their day the most impressive all-round versions of these two symphonies were Sixten Ehrling’s Decca accounts with the LSO from the late Sixties, and the fine DG set from Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg orchestra from the Eighties. Incidentally, the Chandos cover refers to the E flat Symphony as ‘Sinfonie naïve’, a title which Berwald had rejected by the time he had shown the autograph score to Auber in Paris some years later. A mightily insignificant point, no doubt, but one worth making. What is of much greater moment is the excellence of the Danish orchestra’s response to this sparkling and original music which Dausgaard shapes with fine musical imagination. Perhaps the first movement of the E flat could have been brisker but generally speaking, tempi are well-judged. In short quite the best Berwald disc we have had for some years. Robert Layton