August Halm was a talented
if not genuinely gifted musician whose
rather sizeable output has been for
the most part neglected over the years.
Remembered more as a dedicated music
teacher than a composer, he began life
as the youngest and rather pampered
child of a clergyman. Reared in a particularly
scenic area in Thuringia, his life was
on the whole as tranquil as his surroundings.
His attempt at following in his father’s
ecclesiastical footsteps soon came to
failure, and at the encouraging of friends
and mentors, Halm focused his studies
on music, giving lessons and composing
near his native city for his entire
His A major symphony
certainly reflects his idyllic homeland.
It is a substantial work, nearly an
hour long and it begins with tremendous
promise. The opening movement is truly
a work of great reflective beauty, even
if you factor out the obvious influence
of Bruckner within its inner melodies.
No boldly striding Brahms this, rather,
Halm sets out to create something lovely,
and quite handily succeeds.
The slightly shorter
second movement is sublimely serene;
a testament to the somewhat lost art
of creating something beautiful for
the simple sake of beauty. It is easy
to become quickly lost in this tranquil,
Alas, it is here that
the composer seems to run out of steam,
and the third movement, called a szene,
seems to head off in no particular direction.
Henceforth, the symphony never recovers.
Halm attempts to be conclusive and direct
as he finishes his composition. There
is, however, not enough significant
material either rhythmically or thematically
to pull it off, and what started out
as such a hopeful find rather disappoints
as it concludes.
Like the work itself,
the Württembergische Philharmonie
Reutlingen begins with great promise.
They possess a splendid balance between
sections and capture the serenity of
the first two movements beautifully.
Things go a bit awry by the finale however,
as ever so slight intonation problems
in the winds and brass, coupled with
a palpable lack of forward motion bring
what could have been a satisfactory
finish to a let-down of a lumbering
Although I cannot give
this recording or the work for that
matter my whole-hearted approval, I
can recommend its purchase for the first
two movements, which provide twenty-eight
minutes of truly gorgeous music and
musicianship. This is a gem-let that
is worthy of the occasional hearing.
Alas, it does not quite meet the standards
see also review
by Rob Barnett