When I was starting to know the symphonic repertory in my early teens, symphony concerts consisted of overture, concerto, interval and symphony. From the good second-rate provincial orchestra (it is neither second-rate nor provincial these days) that I used to hear the range of overtures was the familiar 3 by Weber, a few by Rossini, Coriolan and Egmont, and the Midsummer Night's Dream. I think that even then I would have been pleased to hear Berwald's Queen of Golconda overture by way of variety and relief.
That overture is probably the most conventional and least interesting piece in this recital, but the standard of comparison is a high one. With Berwald we are dealing with a composer not of the rank of Hummel or Spohr, but of Weber or Schumann. He seems to have enjoyed slightly mixed fortunes as a creative artist during his lifetime, and I'm not sure even yet just how much his name conveys to the average concert-goer and record-collector. My own collection of his work is still wofully small, but my enthusiasm for it grows with everything new by him that I acquire. This particular offering is a very pleasant mixed bag. Don't take the collective title `tone poems' too literally - this is not Strauss or Bax. One item, as I've already said, is an operatic overture, and another is a small-scale concerto for bassoon, with Patrik Hakansson as the accomplished soloist, supplementing Mozart's little masterpiece for the same agreeable instrument and bringing my collection of such works up to a new total of two. Apart from these there are four other orchestral pieces going by various descriptions or by none, and all lasting under ten minutes. I don't know whether there is actually a strings-only version of the `etude' Foot-Race as the list of works on the back of the box seems to suggest, but if so it's not the version given here.
I am very pleased to report that the liner note provides information on the orchestra and on the conductor, both of them previously unfamiliar to me for one and both thoroughly impressive. Its author Richard Whitehouse also has a good sense for the level of information that is best offered in relation to this music and the likely public for the disc. Credits are also given to the recording specialists in this excellent production from 2000, and the accomplished and sympathetic orchestral playing comes across most engagingly. In every way this is a disc that I would like to recommend, and if I am thought to be a little repetitious in expressing my appreciation to Naxos for what they are doing in promoting unfamiliar music at a moderate cost that is a charge to which I shall plead guilty with pleasure.