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Berwald, Franz
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Biography
Berwald, Franz (Adolf)

(Born; Stockholm, 23 July 1796; Died; there, 3 April 1868). Swedish composer and violinist, the most individual and commanding musical personality Sweden has produced. He was the son of C. F. G. Berwald (1740-1825), a violinist of German birth who studied with F. Benda and played in the Stockholm court orchestra. Franz was a violinist or violist in the orchestra (1812-28) and probably studied composition with its conductor, J. B. E. Dupuy. He disowned all his early works, which in their bold modulations show Spohr's influence, except a Serenade for tenor and six instruments (1825) and the fine Septet (?1828). He cherished operatic ambitions but failed to stir much interest in any of his works except Estrella de Soria (1841, performed 1862); The Queen of Golconda was not staged until 1968. In fact he was never properly recognized in his own country.

He made his greatest contribution to the repertory in his orchestral compositions of the 1840s, above all the four symphonies: the Sinfonie singulière (1845) is the most original, but all share vigorous freshness, formal originality (he sometimes used cyclic forms) and warm harmony and textures, especially in slow movements. His chamber works (two piano quintets, four piano trios and two string quartets), which occupied his main attention from 1849 to 1859, are often Mendelssohnian in style and show a real command of form and idiom. Berwald pursued several business interests (he ran an orthopedic institute, a glassworks and a sawmill) and was active as a polemical writer on social issues from 1856. Although he was made professor of composition at the Swedish Royal Academy in 1867, the discovery of his work was a 20th-century phenomenon. His brother August (1798-1869) was also a violinist and composer, and a granddaughter, Astrid, a leading Swedish pianist and teacher.

(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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