Classical: Music on CD

BERWALD The Four Symphonies

Malmo Symphony / Ehrling

BIS CD 795-6, 2 CDs

Sweden's answer to Felix Mendelssohn ran a glassworks, a saw mill and, briefly, a brick factory, before setting up his successful orthopaedic institute in Berlin. So it was best foot forward to immortality. Sadly, he lived to hear only one of his symphonies performed. Nobody understood them anyway. Not really, not then. Remember that he was born the year before Schubert. And keep remembering as you listen. Because you may think you recognise the language, the Mendelssohnian and Schumannesque gestures, but you'll be surprised by the form they take.

Berwald was a form-buster. The quirkiness of his musical personality is entirely unexpected. It's like watching the classical symphony do handstands. The behaviour is somehow inappropriate. Friendly persuasions (and there are many) are met by as many odd departures. The tonal scheming suggests Nielsen, 50 years too soon. There's something playful, capricious about the gamesmanship. Berwald, the polemicist, is evident in the argumentative nature of his musical developments. But at the heart of him is the extraordinary individuality of his melodic writing. Seemingly unremarkable ideas (sometimes no more than a single phrase) are moved to sing: the benevolence of his slow movements is treasurable.

Particularly as here, under the veteran Swedish conductor Sixten Ehrling, whose patience affords them a breadth and mellowness that none of his rivals can match. The Adagio of Symphony No 4 sounds like it's carving out a glorious future. And that it is. Berwald put Sweden, indeed Scandinavia, on the musical map. And if you don't think that's saying much, think again. Think Stenhammar, Sibelius, and Nielsen for starters. Edward Seckerson

PREVIN

Sonata for Cello; Songs etc

McNair, Ma, Previn

Sony SK 62004

Andre Previn's first opera - A Streetcar Named Desire - is no longer a rumour but a growing reality. And call me crazy, but it might just work. I base this somewhat rash prediction not on Previn's past incursions (dubious, to say the least) into the the world of music theatre (do you know his scores for Coco and The Good Companions?) but on the recent spate of songs. The songs are what this album is about. They're good. For the second time now, he's setting texts by Toni Morrison (the first being his Honey and Rue cycle for Kathleen Battle). And he trusts them, goes with them, imposes nothing, falsifies nothing, and never succumbs to those irritating vocal tics so beloved of the contemporary music establishment. So the vocal lines sit very naturally. Because Previn is doing what comes naturally.

The Two Remembrances - "A Love Song" and "Lyric" - were written only last year and already sound familiar - in the best sense. The sultry alto flute sets the tone (doing for these German texts what Previn's equally telling cello obbligato does for the Morrison), but it's the exquisite piano refrain of "Lyric" (more than a hint of Bernstein in that) which greets you like an old friend the moment you hear it. That's Previn pure and simple, a jazzman's fingers on the keys - the melody, the chords, uncovered in the playing of them. Which is the character of Vocalise, too. He wrote it (specially for this album) in a matter of hours, having first scrapped an initial draft for being "too complicated". So what if it's now a close relative (not a poor copy) of the Rachmaninov? It sings, and so does Sylvia McNair - very well. Which brings me to the Cello Sonata - a big and ambitious piece (some 30 minutes) which never seems quite sure what it's come as. Previn "the composer" is very much in evidence, but he's the someone he wants to be, not the someone he is. Perhaps he's rather too mindful of his European origins. Perhaps a little more First American and a little less Second Viennese would have made all the difference. When Yo-Yo Ma (who's terrific, as you'd expect) gets to turn jazz bassist in the finale, you feel like he's asking the composer, "what kept you?". ES

SAINT-SAeNS

Piano Concertos Nos 1 to 5; Septet

Jeanne-Marie Darre (piano), Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion / Fourestier

Recorded 1955-1957

EMI CZS5 69470, 2 CDs

A delightful cycle that alternates cool neo-classicism with sparkling frivolity and Lisztian virtuosity with the sweetest melodies imaginable. Saint-Saens, like Poulenc, could toy with baroque austerity one moment, then throw you into a musical punch bowl. His piano concertos are invariably extrovert and always skilfully written - and there are surprises galore. The Fifth Concerto, the so-called "Egyptian", was written during a Nile holiday for the 50th anniversary of the composer's debut and creates a sound-world where Arabian folk music and an imitated gamelan sit side by side. The Second Concerto was once caricatured as "beginning with Bach and ending with Offenbach" and the Fourth recalls the exultant bravura of the Organ Symphony.

Good recordings of the cycle are fairly common, though none is more distinguished than this mono set featuring Jeanne-Marie Darre. Darre was one of the finest representatives of the French School, a brilliant performer whose keyboard skills were matched by her formidable reputation as a pedagogue. The French radio orchestra sounds comparatively raw in tone, but Fourestier's conducting is memorably stylish. There's a frothy bonus in the tuneful Septet, again played as to the manner born and, like everything else on this superb set, a perfect pick-me-up. Robert Cowan

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home