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Symphonic Sidebars: A Third Symphony From A “Rodney Dangerfield” Composer


American comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield was known for his catchphrase “I don’t get no respect!”

Scandinavian composer Franz Berwald (1796-1869) must have felt equally under-appreciated. His music never received any recognition during his lifetime, not even in his own country. Consequently, he was forced to earn a living in a variety of occupations other than music, such as managing a glass factory and a saw mill. He was quite skilled as an orthopedic surgeon and invented several orthopedic devices. Franz Berwald is now thought of as perhaps the finest Swedish composer of the Romantic Period.

Franz Berwald wrote concertos, chamber music, opera and other vocal works, and four complete symphonies. Berwald’s symphonies might remind you of Beethoven or Schubert, and even of Mendelssohn, with whom he studied composition. Though Berwald’s stylistic roots are firmly in the Romantic tradition he was also a visionary, anticipating the innovative harmonies and melodies of the great Finish composer Jean Sibelius.

Recommended: Berwald – Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4; Piano Concerto in D. Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra; Okko Kamu, conductor. Naxos Records, CD #8553052

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