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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDD22053
Recording details: October 1995
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: May 1996
Total duration: 21 minutes 38 seconds

'I can't imagine [Susan Tomes's] playing will be surpassed in its sense of style and finesse. Much the same must be said of The Gaudier Ensemble who are little short of superb … it is all hugely enjoyable and well recorded, with very present and finely detailed sound. Recommended with enthusiasm' (Gramophone)

'Cherish this glowing collection of near-masterpieces, played with the utmost sensitivity and panache by the Gaudiers and the always wonderful Susan Tomes' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The Piano Quintet comes off marvellously and compares favourably with any performance on record, past or present … delightful performances on which it would be difficult to improve, and excellent recordings too' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'This is very fine chamber music playing indeed. Delightful music played in exactly the right spirit' (Classic CD)

'The Gaudier Ensemble is flawless, unfailingly persuasive and play with both vigour and polish which makes this issue irresistible … it is difficult to conceive of better performances than these; each of the players … combines to the highest degree a virtuoso command of his or her instrument, a complete involvement in the score at hand, and perfect blending in ensemble. Hyperion's recording is as pure and natural as one could wish. Even the booklet is a model of what such things should be … any serious collector who has not yet encountered this music should search for this disc ASAP' (Fanfare, USA)

'Superbe' (Diapason, France)

Grand Septet in B flat major
1828; possibly a revision of the earlier 1817 Septet, now lost

Poco adagio  [9'00]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Of course Berwald’s best and most characteristic music comes from the 1840s, immediately after his marriage and the successes he enjoyed in Vienna, but two early works stand out for their originality. First, the String Quartet in G minor of 1818 with its inventive resource and modulatory audacities, and then the Grand Septet in B flat (1828). In the early years of the nineteenth century, Beethoven’s Septet was often played in Stockholm—and pretty well everywhere else for that matter. Like Hummel and Kreutzer, Berwald chose the same combination—clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello and double-bass—for his first essay in this form, written in 1817. No autograph of the 1817 Septet survives and the work we know comes from 1828. At the time Berwald spoke of it as a new work but it would seem more likely to be a re-working of the earlier piece. Sten Broman believed the two were different pieces but since, in a letter from Berlin to his sisters in 1831 discussing his early works, Berwald refers to the Septet, I incline to the view that it was a revision. Whether or not this is the case, the Septet is among his most delightful pieces. Formally it is innovative and anticipates the Sinfonie singulière (1845), enfolding the scherzo into the slow movement so that the middle movement functions both as a slow movement and as a scherzo. This has relatively few precedents, though Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach adopted the practice in his C minor Klavier Concerto, Wq43 No 4. Later on in his String Quartet in E flat of 1849, Berwald takes this a stage further by putting the slow movement, complete with its scherzo enclosed, inside the main body of the first movement so that the whole piece is like a Chinese box. In its musical language we are in the tradition of Spohr and Kreutzer: inventive, urbane and attractive. In the finale there are occasional touches that even foreshadow the highly individual fingerprints of the Berwald of the 1840s.

from notes by Robert Layton © 1997

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