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Evoke | Beethoven | Berwald

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The early years of the nineteenth century saw a surge in popularity for works composed for larger chamber ensembles of winds and strings, of which Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20, was considered the very peak of the genre. So successful was it that publishers released multiple arrangements of it for different-sized ensembles, prompting Beethoven to write his own arrangement for clarinet, cello and fortepiano – his Op. 38, the piece you will hear in this program. The piece loses none of its complexity in its revoicing, with an arrangement so natural and convincing it sounds like it could have been written for these forces.

Influenced by Beethoven’s Septet, and with a clear inheritance from other composers like Schubert, Spohr and Weber, the delightful Grand Septet by Swedish composer Franz Berwald is an inspired work by an often-overlooked composer. Building on short thematic fragments that often mimic village tunes and dances, there is some innovative writing at play – listen how the second movement features a scherzo in the middle of an adagio! But it’s not all sweetness and light, as occasional harmonic twists hint at tensions that never fully resolve…

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