Franz Berwald – the founder of Romanticism in Swedish Music

Franz Berwald was one of those wonderful composers  who could almost never get his music to become appreciated during his lifetime.  He was born in Stockholm  Sweden on July 23, 1795  and he died in Stockholm Sweden on April 3, 1868.  He was the first Swedish composer of the Romantic symphony. While he was slightly influenced musically by Louis Spohr and Carl Maria von Weber  he was really very original in his harmonies and musical construction.

He was born in Stockholm with a father who was a German orchestral violinist.  While his father did help Franz get started learning the violin,  for the most part Franz was self taught. He was already  a member of the Royal Opera Orchestra at the age of 16 and it was around then that he also began to compose.  His Grand Septet which the Charles River Sinfonietta  performed several times recently, is a wonderful piece, and got many nice comments from our audiences today. It got world premiered when Franz was 30 in 1826.  But the musical patterns he used in his music were met with indifference from his Swedish audiences. Due to the lack of reception for his music he was forced to make most of his living then in nonmusical fields. Glassblowing seemed to be one of  his most frequent ways of making a living  outside of music, however he also did lumbering , orthopedics, and physical therapy as well.

In his youth he travelled abroad first to Norway, then  he lived in Berlin for a while to study music further, and then he travelled to Vienna where he actually found an enthusiastic audience for his compositions. It was in Vienna where he got his opera Estrella di Soria performed and nicely received and in 1842 he composed his First symphony there  one year after getting married.  However after writing his first symphony he decided to return to Stockholm once again with his wife, but unfortunately, while he continued to compose lots of music including several operas and three more symphonies, his works continued to be met with indifference there.

Franz Berwald finally decided to go abroad again  to see if his music could be received better outside of his homeland once more, and he lived for a short while in Paris, but did not get his works performed there, and then went back to Vienna where he was met  with an enthusiastic audience  that greatly appreciated his music once again,  this time it being another one of  his operas he’d just composed that they liked.

Finally when he reached his 60s  he started to get appreciated in Sweden  starting with the first opera  Estrella di Soria that had been much appreciated in Vienna a few decades before.   Following that he finally for the first time got accepted  as a. professor of composition at the Swedish Academy  in 1867.  Prior to this he’d never been able to find a job in his home  country as conductor or professor of music, but unfortunately  he died to pneumonia just one year after  becoming a professor there.

His works have finally started to be appreciated much more in these last few decades  over a century after he died with his music finally getting published, performed, and recorded.


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