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Eduard Brendler (1800 - 1831)
'Ryno' - The Knight Errant
(Music completed by Prince Oscar).
Libretto by Bernhard von Beskow
Soloists, members of the Choir of Stora Teatern, Gothenburg.
Gothenburg SO/Anders Wiklund
Live Performance 27th-29th April 1992 & 11th-12th January 1993. Gothenburg Concert Hall
STERLING CDS-1031/2-2 'Swedish Romantic' series [2CDs 114.26]

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It is no slight to suggest that opera in Sweden during the early nineteenth century was not as vibrant as it could have been. Of course there had been a revival of opera during the reign of King Gustaf III, (1772-1782) however this revival seems to have been dominated by the Germans. The name of Johann Gottlieb Naumann springs to mind. His two operas Amphion and Gustaf Wasa were both produced in Stockholm to much critical acclaim. Other composers figuring in this revival were the Germans G.J. Vogler and J.Martin Kraus. Another successful composer was the French-Swiss Jean-Baptiste-Eduard du Pay who contributed a popular opera that did the rounds in Sweden for nearly a century. The great Franz Berwald wrote at least two operas; one of which was another version of Gustav Wasa and was written in 1827. Now I have not heard this opera and confess to knowing nothing about it. I do not know if it was performed. Yet the whole romantic tenor of Berwald's mature music would suggest that it was in the 'romantic' style. Perhaps some further thought needs to be given to this CD's soubriquet - the 'First Swedish Romantic Opera?

Frans Fredric Eduard Brendler was born in Dresden in the year 1800. His claim to be a Swedish composer rests on the fact that his family moved to Stockholm when he was one year old! His father was musical, being a flautist with the Court Orchestra, so the young man was brought up in a musical environment. Although Eduard received musical training at his father's hands and learnt to play the flute, he furthered a career as a book-keeper on the island of Gotland. It was not until later in his life that he considered himself a professional musician, composer and teacher.

Brendler has a limited catalogue of works. There are a number of songs, some piano pieces, a few chamber works and a symphonic work of which the score has been lost. Little of these works have survived into the age of the CD.

The history of the composition of Ryno is lost in the mists of time. It is assumed that the Crown Prince, Prince Oscar, commissioned it. The librettist was a certain Bernard von Beskow. Both the prince and the writer knew Eduard Brendler through their activities in the Stockholm Harmonic Society.

We do know that Brendler did not exactly apply himself to the task in hand. In fact he was quite dilatory in writing the opera's musical numbers. He began with the ones that suited his mood and ability and left the hard ones until later. Unfortunately 'later' never arrived; the composer died in 1832. The opera was completed by his friend and patron the Crown Prince himself. The first performance of the complete work was given in May 1834.

The opera has all the required romantic attributes. Nature is extolled -especially by Agnes. There is a sense of the exotic - often from the Orient but in this opera it is gypsies. There is a storm, folk tales, people in disguise and even a touch of the supernatural. Although the text and the names of the principals are in Swedish, this is hardly a 'nationalist' opera. The plot is universal - a tale of knights in armour, treason and love. The hero gets the girl and the villain is unmasked and finally receives his reward!

The music itself is quite hard to categorise. It is very easy to say that one is aware of this or that influence. And in some cases the listener is probably right. But no composer writes his or her music in a vacuum. Very few composers go on to develop a unique style of their own. Even Schoenberg's dodecaphonic music could be seen to have its antecedents in chromatic preludes of Bach! So it is hardly surprising that we detect reminiscences of Weber, Spohr and even Mozart in this work. It was the music that was in the air. There is no doubt that the numbers are tuneful and exhibit a command of technique. The orchestration is particularly effective. It is impossible to fault the production of this CD. Any faults with the sound quality can be attributed to the live performance. But this is nit-picking. We have here part of a musical research project that was originally broadcast on the radio. It is an important contribution to the musicology of Sweden and Scandinavia as a whole.

The singing is excellent - from both the chorus and the soloist. The diction is clear at all times. The orchestral balance is exactly right for this era. The CD itself is well produced. The sleeve notes are comprehensive and a joy to read. The music must be seen as an important event in Swedish musical life.

John France

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