Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Symphony No. 1 (1908)
Symphony No. 5 Triptikon (1939)
Tone Poem - Paolo und Francesca
Odense SO/Jan Wagner
rec 17-20 May 1999 Odense
MARCO POLO - DA CAPO 8.224134 [69.08]


Copenhagen-born von Klenau studied with Otto Malling, Max Bruch and Ludwig Thuille. He followed the long honoured Germanic romantic tradition within Danish music. Much of his time was spent in Stuttgart, Freiburg, Vienna and Munich. Only the last of his operas was premiered outside Germany - otherwise the venues were Berlin, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hagen, Mannheim or Munich. Die Königin was premiered in Copenhagen in 1941 with its original title (Elizabeth von England) diplomatically elided to cater for the orthodoxy of the Occupation.

Bruckner is an undeniable influence and, judging by the crash of the trombones and the crump of the drums, he had already absorbed Bruckner's 8th symphony into his artistic bloodstream by the time of his own First Symphony (second movement). The finale struts and gallops with a knowledge borne of the Bruckner Seventh Symphony but has a lyrical release derived from Schubert and Beethoven (Seventh). If you add to this a helping of Stanford and a smattering of Franz Schmidt (Second Symphony) you get some idea of what to expect. The seraphically benevolent third movement was perhaps to have influenced Louis Glass's symphonies 4 and 5.

I knew something of what to expect having known since the early 1980s the Symphonies 5 and 7, an aria from his opera Rembrandt van Rijn (1937) and the song cycle (contralto and orchestra) Gesprache mit dem Tode. Suffice to say that I hope that this CD signals a complete symphonic cycle. Comparison with Asger Hamerik, Ludolf Nielsen, Poul Schierbeck and Rudolph Simonsen, places von Klenau in a far from inferior position. While he is not (on the basis of these works) to be counted in the company of Louis Glass (Sinfonia Svastika) or Haakon Børresen (Symphony No. 1) he is seriously intentioned and highly skilled.

His name may well be known to Delians. In 1924 he conducted a concert celebrating Delius's 60th birthday. In the following year he was in London conducting A Mass of Life. Schoenberg's Gurrelieder was directed by him in Vienna as also was Milhaud's L'Homme et son Désir.

The Fifth Symphony does not have the urgency or impact of the radio performance led by Josef Hrncir with the Aarhus By-Orkester but it is a better than fair representation of a good work. I hope that the next disc will fill out the picture with recordings of the sixth and seventh symphonies. No. 7 Stormsinfonien (1941) continues the Brucknerian style.

Paolo und Francesca is the central episode of the completed three poems of a projected cycle based on Dante's 'Inferno'. This tripartite layout recalls Stanford's three Dante pieces for piano. Paolo's 'companions', missing from this disc, are Descent to Hell and Ugolino. Piercing, probing, heated and rhapsodic the work bears many influences (heard or otherwise) including those of Liszt and Bruckner although the opening five minutes are surprisingly advanced for a work written in 1904.

This makes a good start and the interpretations and playing are serviceable to good without being blazingly confident. Good studio quality sound and better than decent notes essential for such unfamiliar music.

Rob Barnett

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