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Berwald, Franz (Adolf)

stockholm composer royal swedish

Berwald, Franz (Adolf), outstanding Swedish composer, cousin of Johan Fredrik Berwald; b. Stockholm, July 23, 1796; d. there, April 3, 1868. His father, Christian Friedrich Berwald (1740–1825), was a German musician who studied with Franz Benda and settled in Stockholm in the 1770s as a member of the orch. of the Royal Chapel. Franz received training in violin from his father and cousin, and in composition from J.B.E. du Puy. He was a violinist and violist in the orch. of the Royal Chapel in Stockholm (1812–28). In 1819 he toured Finland with his brother, Christian August Berwald, and Russia. In 1829 he went to Berlin and in 1835 opened an orthopedic establishment, which soon flourished. In 1841 he went to Vienna, where he obtained short-lived success as a composer with his symphonic poems. He then returned to Stockholm and secured a foothold as a composer with his operettas and cantatas. On Dec. 2, 1843, his cousin conducted the premiere of his Sinfonie sérieuse (his only acknowledged sym. performed in his lifetime), but poor execution of the score did little to further his cause. In 1846 he returned to Vienna, where Jenny Lind sang in his stage cantata Ein landliches Verlobungfest in Schweden at the Theater an der Wien. In 1847 he was elected an honorary member of the Salzburg Mozarteum. In 1849 he returned to his homeland in hopes of securing the position of either conductor of the Royal Opera in Stockholm or director of music in Uppsala. Hopes dashed, he became manager of a glassworks in Sandò, Àngermanland (1850–58) and part owner of a sawmill (1853), and briefly operated a brick factory. Berwald was shunned by the Swedish musical establishment (which he disdained), and his extraordinary gifts as a composer went almost totally unrecognized in his lifetime. Finally, in 1864, he was made a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. In the last year of his life he was named to its composition chair, only to be unseated, however briefly, on a second vote demanded by his enemies. Berwald’s masterpiece is his Sinfonie singulière (1845), a singular work of notable distinction, which was not performed until 70 years after its composition. He also wrote 3 other fine syms. and a number of worthy chamber music pieces. His output reveals the influence of the German Romantic school in general, but with an unmistakably individual voice.

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