Septet in B flat Major
For Violin, Viola Cello, Bass, Clarinet, Horn & Bassoon
“Franz Berwald’s Septet dates from 1828 but it was not published until 1883, several years after his death. It is composed for the same instruments as Beethoven’s famous Op.20 Septet but is in no way imitative of it. He has his own voice and his own musical expression. His ideas are well thought out and tasteful. One must note that his handling of the wind instruments, which he generally treats as a group, is particularly fine. It is in three movements, and even today is strong enough to be presented in concert. The first movement begins with a short Adagio introduction which gives way to the main section, Allegro molto. Here the winds present the long-lined melody against the effect use of string pizzicato. The second movement is actually two in one, beginning with a lyrical Adagio and then turning into a Scherzo with a Beethovian trio section. The lively finale, Allegro con spirito, shows the influence of the Italian opera, Rossini in particular."---Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for Chamber Music Players
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.
Septets are not assembled all that often. So when the Beethoven is played--what next? Certainly the Berwald is a fine answer. The part-writing is excellent and the melodies appealing. (Other septets for the same combination, which you may also wish to consider and which we publish are those by Adolphe Blanc, and Conradin Kreutzer. Click on their names to go to their pages)