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Franz Berwald


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Franz Adolf Berwald (born in Stockholm on July 23, 1796 and died there on April 3, 1868) was a Swedish Romantic composer who was generally ignored during his lifetime and had to make his living as an orthopedic surgeon and, later, as the manager of a saw mill and glass factory. He is now considered the finest Swedish composer of the 19th century, indeed probably the finest Swedish composer of any century.

Berwald came from a family with four generations of musicians; his father, a violinist in the Royal Opera Orchestra, taught young Berwald the violin from an early age. He soon appeared in concerts. In 1811, Karl XIII (brother of Gustavus III) 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. He 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.

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 in C# minor was premiered by his brother August. It was not well received. Some people in the audience even burst out laughing during the slow movement.

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  • Jhaidinszaev

    The piano trios remind me of Mendelssohn's (and Schumann's to a certain degree), except more original and engaging in almost every respect. The Sinfonie singulière is a remarkable pre-echo of Nielsen, ~60 years earlier. Deserves to be a major name.

    26 Sep 2013 Reply
  • Conservationist

    Truly an amazing Romantic composer!

    12 Apr 2010 Reply
  • gearshifter

    Lovely symphonies.

    18 Jan 2010 Reply
  • xgeorgx

    Great composer. Totally underrated!! Hang in there, Franz!

    24 Dec 2008 Reply