Adolphe Blanc was a reputable violinist by 1852 and an established composer. His writing emphasizes the exposition of melodies over contrapuntal textures. This style appealed to his French audiences and he, therefore, epitomized the trend towards seriousness in French chamber music. Blanc was likewise highly conservative in his composition, using the style and forms of the nineteenth-century Viennese masters nearly exclusively. The famous chamber music critic and scholar Wilhelm Altmann wrote:
Adolphe Blanc's Septet for violin, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, horn and bassoon was composed for the same combination of instruments as Beethoven's famous Op.20 Septet. It was composed in 1861 and was one of the works for which Blanc was awarded the Chartier Chamber Music Prize. The Septet has good parts and solos for each instrument, including even the bass. It is grateful to play and in no way difficult. The wonderful melodies and finely constructed movements reveal the hand of a master. This work is to be strongly recommended to amateurs, and yet, it belongs in the concert hall as well.
Born in Stockholm in 1796, Franz Berwald was taught violin primarily by his father, a German who had settled in Sweden and was a member of the court orchestra. Berwald followed in his footsteps. Wilhelm Altmann wrote in his Handbook for Chamber Music Players:
Franz Berwald’s Septet dates from 1828 but it was not published until 1883, several years after his death. It is composed for the same instruments as Beethoven’s famous Op.20 Septet but is in no way imitative of it. He has his own voice and his own musical expression. His ideas are well thought out and tasteful. One must note that his handling of the wind instruments, which he generally treats as a group, is particularly fine. It is in three movements, and even today is strong enough to be presented in concert. The first movement begins with a short Adagio introduction which gives way to the main section, Allegro molto. Here the winds present the long-lined melody against the effect use of string pizzicato. The second movement is actually two in one, beginning with a lyrical Adagio and then turning into a Scherzo with a Beethovian trio section. The lively finale, Allegro con spirito, shows the influence of the Italian opera, Rossini in particular.
Liszt, whom Berwald befriended in the 1850’s, told him, “You have true originality, but you will not be a success in your own lifetime.” Sadly, Berwald’s music has remained unplayed, especially in his native Sweden.
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator