Berwald, one of the important Swedish composers of the 19th century, is known for his four Symphonies. However, his tone poems – all written during the 1840s – are not at all well known, and this disc provides a typical Naxos opportunity to experience their unusual harmonics and melodies at very reasonable cost for the listen. The orchestra may be new to you, but is one of the oldest in Sweden and has recorded the music of Stenhammar, Alfven, Grieg and Nielsen.
Berwald was one of those composers who for various reasons had to abandon musical pursuits during part of his life and work in standard businesses – including orthopedic devices and glassworks. His style comes from the Germanic tradition, with the influences of Spohr, Weber and Mendelssohn. The Bassoon Concerto is the offbeat work here. It quotes Home Sweet Home during its Andante section. The Norwegian Mountains piece is the major one of the tone poems here, with its grand orchestral nostalgia. The Etude for Strings is subtitled Foot-Race and sounds like a fast-moving scherzo from one of Berwald’s four symphonies. The Play of the Elves harkens strongly to Mendelssohn, but the Serious and Joyful Fancies is fresher and more active musically.
– John Sunier