The Swedish classical
recording company, Sterling was borne
of Bo Hyttner’s passion for romantic
era music. He garnered a major archive
of tapes of symphonies, concertos and
overtures. All of this was happening
while he was running his record shop.
It finally came to the point where the
record shop had to go and where the
recording of Romantic music became both
the endeavour and the prize. At this
point the world began to benefit from
a veritable stream of recordings of
rare romantic pieces.
Halm was born in the
home city of the orchestra who with
the Swedish born Per Borin have now
championed this symphony onto compact
disc. His is not a household name -
not even in households with strong convictions
about the romantic repertoire. He is
so obscure that he does not even rate
an entry in my 1950 Grove V. Perhaps
things have improved for the New Grove.
To get some background,
independent of the typically full liner-note
by Lee Rothfarb, I went to the 1926
‘Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians’.
There Halm is mainly credited as an
author. He was born at Gross-Altdorf,
Württemberg. He began as a theological
student at the University of Tübingen.
Then he moved to Munich where his teachers
included Bruckner and Rheinberger. He
held various teaching posts at Haubinda
and Wickersdorf before becoming director
of the men’s choral society at Ulm.
His writings included various academic
tomes, a book on Bach’s concerto form
and another on Bruckner’s symphonies
(Munich, 1912). Among the compositions
there are five string quartets, three
serenades for string trio, three sonatas
for solo violin, two sonatas for violin
and piano, a piano concerto and a symphony
for string orchestra. In addition to
the A major symphony there is also another
for full orchestra this time in F major.
August Halm’s Symphony
is right on message. It is thoroughly
romantic, soaked in pastoral grandiloquence,
birdsong, charming visions and gentle
imagery. Halm takes a stance that is
both reactionary and backward looking
... and the none the worse for that.
The works to which his symphony is intermittently
related include: Brahms 3 and 4,
Beethoven’s Pastoral, Bruckner 4, Schubert’s
Ninth, Grieg’s Gynt music, Dvořák
5 and 6, Schumann 2 and 3, Karl Goldmark’s
Rustic Wedding and Smetana’s Festive
and Ma Vlast. The glittering prize among
the movements is the lovely adagio.
This takes a dowdy theme from
the first movement and develops it swan-like
into something intensely and swooningly
romantic. The result is caught creatively
between Tchaikovsky, Mahler (Adagietto),
Rachmaninov and John Barry. The Württembergische
Philharmonie Reutlingen produce a warm
strength from their massed strings but
are far from infallible and in the finale
Rondo there are some rough moments.
Against that you can set some lovingly
shaped woodwind writing especially in
the first movement and in general a
highly accomplished approach. There
are several extremely memorable moments
including the point in the finale (8:40)
where the horns and trombones are called
on to yawp like a chorus of ursine malcontents.
Truth to tell the finale meanders, creaks
and groans more than a little but there
are plenty of engaging events along
the road. The piece ends not wholly
convincingly with a snatched Brucknerian
gesture of defiance.
This is the latest
disc in Sterling’s ‘Deutsche Romantiker’
series; the seventh to be released.
Halm is no major discovery
but his gift for pleasing pastoral invention
is entertaining and if grand profundity
is not really in evidence there is still
much here to enjoy.
EARLIER VOLUMES IN THE STERLING ‘DEUTSCHER
ROMANTIKER’ SERIES - reviewed at Classical
Music on the Web
WETZ Symphony No. 3 Berlin
SO/Erich Peter STERLING CDS 1041-2
Vol. 2: Norbert
No. 1 Hugo STAEHLE Symphony No. 1 Orchester
der Staatstheater Kassel/Marc Piollet
Vol. 3: Paul
No. 4 (1917-19) Berlin Radio SO/ Gerhard
Pflüger (symphony) STERLING CDS-1048-2
Symphony No. 5 etc Moscow SO/Adriano
Vol. 5 August
KLUGHARDT (1847-1902) Cello
Concerto in A minor etc STERLING
Vol. 6 Xaver
SCHARWENKA (1850-1924) Symphony
in C minor etc Gävle Symphony Orchestra/Christopher
Fifield STERLING CDS-1060-2