Berwald: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Konzertstück for Bassoon and Orchestra

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COMPOSERS: Berwald
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Konzertstück for Bassoon and Orchestra
PERFORMER: Christian Davidsson (bassoon)Malmö SO/Sixten Ehrling
CATALOGUE NO: CD-795/6
Born a year before Schubert, Franz Berwald outlived him by forty more, bestriding the Classical and Romantic eras with an individuality so strong he must be reckoned Sweden’s first major composer. Classical forms and phraseology are continually subverted by an almost obsessively inventive imagination. If Berwald’s song-like lyric vein does indeed recall Schubert, his more vividly abrupt ideas suggest rather a Nordic Berlioz. In prophetic moments an ardent yet chill intensity seems to anticipate Sibelius, and his structural innovations – the arch-form slow movement and scherzo of the Sinfonie singulière, for instance – clearly point towards the future.

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Ehrling’s performances, if not always sufficiently polished, take their cue from the ruggedness of the music itself and are eminently serviceable. Christian Davidsson is an amiable soloist in the much earlier Konzertstück, altogether a neglected masterpiece of the restricted bassoon repertoire. Calum MacDonald