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
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
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