Franz Berwald (1796-1868)

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Romanian Athenaeum, Bucharest

For the second of their two Enescu Festival concerts, Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhaus Orchestra traded Enescu and Buckner,, for two christened-Franz composers, Schubert and, Blomstedt’s fellow-Swede, Berwald.

Opening was a delightful account of Schubert”s Fifth Symphony, a frolicsome and savoured first movement, dynamically observant, then a flowing Andante full of song and heartfelt expression, played with warmth. Following a muscular Minuet and endearing Trio (bassoon to the fore in both, with woodwind joys throughout the work) the Finale was a bustling affair without compromising clarity or melodic shape. Blomstedt observed all repeats (including twice-through the Minuet da capo) and if the one in the final movement really isn’t necessary I wouldn’t wish to deny Schubert his stated intentions or Blomstedt his honour and pleasure.

Following the interval, two opuses by Berwald, a regular travel companion with Blomstedt these days. His attractive Reminiscences of the Norwegian Alps, whether contemplative or livelier, is one thing, while ‘Sinfonie singulière’ is quite another, a masterwork – shadowy and spirited, innovative and beguiling, in the first movement, then a Heaven-sent slow movement interrupted by a dancing Scherzo with cooing woodwinds before pacific overtures return, the Symphony rounded by a fiery (trombones fuelling the energy) and graceful Finale, a chorale introduced to take the music to a safe harbour and Berwald’s ending is to the point. His score unopened, Blomstedt relished every note and feature of this wonderful work, which the Gewandhaus members reciprocated.

Schubert Symphony No. 5 in B flat major D 485
Berwald Erinnerung an die norwegischen Alpen
Berwald Symphony No. 3 in C major, Singulière