String Quartet No.1 in g minor
“Franz Berwald's String Quartet No.1 in g minor was composed in 1818. A substantial work, especially for this period, it is the longest of his quartets. The first two measures of the opening movement, Allegro moderato, have a tonality which is already advanced for the time, although the rest of the phrase quickly falls back into conventional tonality. The second theme is found in a long series of leisurely triplets, ranging over two octaves in the first violin. The part writing is quite good and Berwald makes telling use of the cello in its lower register to provide contrast. The music sounds original rather than derivative. Critics both at the time and since have commented on the unusual and abrupt modulations all within a few measures. The opening theme to the second movement, Poco adagio, is based on a pleasant folk melody. The third movement, Scherzo, Allegro, is the most unusual and original sounding of the Quartet. The robust main theme is advanced both rhythmically and tonally. The trio section provides adequate contrast The finale, Allegretto, begins with a fairly conservative type of theme, harking back to the Viennese classics although Berwald’s use of fz adds rhythmic interest. A third theme is noteworthy for its advanced tonality, sounding as if Schumann or a young Brahms might have written it and is ahead of its time: This quartet has a great deal to recommend it.”---The well-known critic Larius Ussi, writing in The Chamber Music Journal.
Sometime during the 1850’s, a German music critic is reputed to have asked Franz Berwald (1796-1868) if he was still a composer. Berwald stared at him coldly and replied, “No, I am a glass blower.” This was neither a joke nor a sarcastic put-down of the critic by a bitter man whose music had been spurned in his own country and whose career in music had met with failure after failure. Berwald had in fact, at that time, actually been a glass blower! He had become involved with this successful business, and not his first, in order to make a living, something he could not do as a musician. Liszt, whom Berwald befriended in the 1850’s, told him, “You have true originality, but you will not be a success in your own lifetime.” Sadly, this prediction proved true. Berwald’s music remained unplayed and for the most part—especially in his native Sweden—unappreciated. Now, nearly a century and half after his death, he has been hailed by critics all over the world as a great Swedish composer. Born in Stockholm in 1796, Berwald was taught the violin by his father, a German who had settled in Sweden and was a member of the court orchestra. Berwald followed in his footsteps.
Here is a very interesting work by the most important Swedish composer of the first half of the 19th century. Fresh and original it can be recommended to amateurs and professionals alike.
Parts & Score: $34.95