Franz Berwald

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Franz Berwald, c. 1860 Franz Berwald Photo.jpg
Franz Berwald, c. 1860

Franz Adolf Berwald (23 July 1796 – 3 April 1868) was a Swedish Romantic composer. He made his living as an orthopedic surgeon and later as the manager of a saw mill and glass factory, and became more appreciated as a composer after his death than he had been in his lifetime.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Romantic music music of the Romantic period

Romantic music is a period of Western classical music that began in the late 18th or early 19th century. It is related to Romanticism, the Western artistic and literary movement that arose in the second half of the 18th century, and Romantic music in particular dominated the Romantic movement in Germany.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Contents

Life and works

Berwald was born in Stockholm and came from a family with four generations of musicians; his father, a violinist in the Royal Opera Orchestra, taught Franz the violin from an early age; he soon appeared in concerts. In 1809, Karl XIII came to power and reinstated the Royal Chapel; the following year Berwald started working there, as well as playing the violin in the court orchestra and the opera, receiving lessons from Edouard du Puy, and also started composing. The summers were off-season for the orchestra, and Berwald travelled around Scandinavia, Finland and Russia. Of his works from that time, a septet and a serenade he still considered worthwhile music in his later years.

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 962,154 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.5 million in the urban area, and 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the capital of Stockholm County.

Violin bowed string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths

The violin, sometimes known as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use. Smaller violin-type instruments exist, including the violino piccolo and the kit violin, but these are virtually unused. The violin typically has four strings tuned in perfect fifths, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings, though it can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow.

Charles XIII of Sweden King of Sweden and Norway between 1809-1814

Charles XIII & II also Carl, Swedish: Karl XIII, was King of Sweden from 1809 and King of Norway from 1814 until his death. He was the second son of King Adolf Frederick of Sweden and Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great.

In 1818 Berwald started publishing the Musikalisk journal, later renamed Journal de musique, a periodical with easy piano pieces and songs by various composers as well as some of his own original work. In 1821, his Violin Concerto was premiered by his brother August. It was not well received; some people in the audience burst out laughing during the slow movement. [1]

A pavement plate commemorating Berwald's time in Berlin and his orthopedic clinic Franz Berwald Berlin ubt.JPG
A pavement plate commemorating Berwald's time in Berlin and his orthopedic clinic

His family got into dire economic circumstances after the death of his father in 1825. Berwald tried to get several scholarships, but only got one from the King, which enabled him to study in Berlin, where he worked hard on operas despite not having any chance to put them on the stage. To make a living, Berwald started an orthopedic and physiotherapy clinic in Berlin in 1835, which turned out to be profitable. Some of the orthopedic devices he invented were still in use decades after his death.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

He stopped composing during his time in Berlin, resuming only in 1841 with a move to Vienna and marriage to Mathilde Scherer. In 1842 a concert of his tone poems at the Redoutensaal at the Hofburg Imperial Palace received extremely positive reviews, and over the course of the next three years Berwald wrote four symphonies. These were not the first symphonies he had written: numerous major works from the 1820s have gone missing, and the torso of a Symphony in A's first movement remains, has been finished, and recorded.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

The Symphony No. 1 in G minor, "Sérieuse", was the only one of Berwald's four symphonies that was performed in his lifetime. In 1843, it was premiered in Stockholm with his cousin Johan Frederik conducting the Royal Opera House Orchestra. At that same concert, his operetta Jag går i kloster ( I enter a monastery ) was also performed, but its success is credited to one of the roles having been sung by Jenny Lind.[ citation needed ] In 1846, Jenny Lind sang in one of Berwald's cantatas. [2] Another operetta, The Modiste , had less success in 1845.

Symphony extended musical composition

A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, most often written by composers for orchestra. Although the term has had many meanings from its origins in the ancient Greek era, by the late 18th century the word had taken on the meaning common today: a work usually consisting of multiple distinct sections or movements, often four, with the first movement in sonata form. Symphonies are almost always scored for an orchestra consisting of a string section, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments which altogether number about 30 to 100 musicians. Symphonies are notated in a musical score, which contains all the instrument parts. Orchestral musicians play from parts which contain just the notated music for their own instrument. Some symphonies also contain vocal parts.

Operetta opera genre

Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter.

Jag går i kloster is a two-act operetta by Franz Berwald, to a libretto by the composer and Herman Sätherberg (1812-1897).

His Piano Concerto, finished in 1855, intended for his piano pupil Hilda Aurora Thegerström, who continued her studies with Antoine François Marmontel and Franz Liszt, did not see the light of day until 1904, when Berwald's granddaughter Astrid performed it at a Stockholm student concert. Particularly in its brilliant last movement it may be compared favourably to Robert Schumann or Edvard Grieg. Its three movements are played without a break.

Berwald's music was not recognised favourably in Sweden during his lifetime, even drawing hostile newspaper reviews, but fared a little better in Germany and Austria. The Mozarteum Salzburg made him an honorary member in 1847.

When Berwald returned to Sweden in 1849, he managed a glass works at Sandö in Ångermanland owned by Ludvig Petré, an amateur violinist. During that time Berwald focused his attention on producing chamber music.

One of his few operas to be staged in his lifetime, Estrella de Soria , was heartily applauded at its premiere at the Royal Theater in April 1862, and was given four more performances in the same month. Following this success, he wrote Drottningen av Golconda ( The Queen of Golconda ), which would have been premiered in 1864, but was not, due to a change of directors at the Royal Opera.

In 1866, Berwald received the Swedish Order of the Polar Star, in recognition of his musical achievements. The following year, the Board of the Royal Musical Academy appointed Berwald professor of musical composition at the Stockholm Conservatory, only to have the Conservatory Board reverse the decision a few days later, and appoint another. The royal family stepped in, and Berwald got the post. At around that time he was also given many important commissions, but he did not live to fulfill them all.

Berwald died in Stockholm in 1868 of pneumonia and was interred there in the Norra begravningsplatsen (Northern Cemetery). The second movement of the Symphony No. 1 was played at his funeral.

Ten years after Berwald's death, his Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, "Naïve", was premiered in 1878 (the originally planned 1848 premiere in Paris having been cancelled because of the political unrest of the time). This gap between composition and first performance was relatively short, however, compared to what befell the Symphony No. 2 in D major, "Capricieuse" and Symphony No. 3 in C major, "Singulière". Those two pieces were not premiered until 1914 and 1905, respectively.

The Swedish conductor and composer Ulf Björlin has recorded various works of Berwald under the EMI Classics label.

Critical assessment

Eduard Hanslick, writing in his 1869 book Geschichte des Concertwesens in Wien, opined of Berwald, "a man stimulating, witty, prone to bizarrerie, [who] as a composer lacked creative power and fantasy". On the other hand, composers Ludvig Norman, Tor Aulin, and Wilhelm Stenhammar worked hard to promote Berwald's music. However, despite these musicians' efforts, it took a while before Berwald was recognized as, to quote composer-critic Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, writing in the Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter , Sweden's "most original and modern composer".

In 1911, Carl Nielsen wrote of Berwald, "Neither the media, money nor power can damage or benefit good Art. It will always find some simple, decent artists who forge ahead and produce and stand up for their works. In Sweden, you have the finest example of this: Berwald." More recently, British musicologist Robert Layton wrote in 1959 what remains the sole English-language biography of Berwald, as well as discussing Berwald's music in considerable detail elsewhere.

One of the examples given by Harold Truscott (in his analysis of Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony) of composers prior to Brian writing "sonata movements which do not order their events on the usual plan" is Franz Berwald, "a storehouse of them ... but he never did unusual things in any way that impaired sonata style. They were always logical, though surprising, and helped, rather than hindered, the sonata shape and expression."

Of Berwald's E-flat major String Quartet, Paul Griffiths finds that the "achievement ... of a new formal shape is remarkable enough, even if the single-movement structures of Liszt or Schumann are more tightly bound." [3]

Works

Symphonies

Concertante

Other orchestral works

Chamber music

Vocal works

Stage works

Works for wind orchestra

Notes

  1. Sven Kruckenberg, programme notes for Naxos CD 8.554287, Swedish Romantic Violin Concertos, translated by Andrew Smith. "The press were not enthusiastic. The Concerto was deemed to be too unwieldy and the soloist to lack any feeling for melody – except in the central movement, in which the accompaniment was so ridiculous that some members of the audience burst out laughing."
  2. David Mason Greene, Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers. New York: Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation (1985): 516
  3. Griffiths, Paul (1983). The String Quartet: A History. New York: Thames & Hudson. pp. 124–125. ISBN   050001311X.

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