Julius Klengel - a Celebration
Julius KLENGEL (1859-1933)
Capriccio on a theme of Schumann for unaccompanied cello [16:33]
Three pieces for two cellos and organ [16:11]
Kleine Suite for three cellos [17:30]
Impromptu for four cellos [5:25]
Hymnus for twelve cellos [5:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sarabande [3:13]
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Adagio [2:55]
Bernhard COSSMANN (1822-1910)
Tarantelle [2:21]
David POPPER (1843-1913)
Mazurka [3:24]
Julius Klengel (cello: Bach, Tartni, Cossmann, Popper)
Raphael Wallfisch (cello: Capriccio)
Sebastian Comberti (cello: Three Pieces, Kleine Suite, Impromptu)
Sarah Butcher (cello: Three Pieces, Kleine Suite, Impromptu)
Joely Koos (cello: Kleine Suite)
Julia Desbruslais, Ben Chappell (cello: Impromptu)
Cello Classics Ensemble (Hymnus)
Martin Ennis (organ: Three Pieces)
rec. 3 May 2011, St Silas, London (Capriccio), 16 April 2009 and 22 September 2010 (other compositions by Klengel)
no information on recording dates or places for the remaining items which are re-mastered by Morgan Roberts
12 Cellisten der Berlin Philharmoniker
Suite in D major [14:02]
Julius KLENGEL (1859-1933)
Hymnus for twelve cellos [6:31]
Boris BLACHER (1903-1973)
Blues, Espagnola, Rumba philharmonica [12:39]
Jean FRANÇAIS (1912-1997)
Aubade [14:43]
12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (Eberhard Finke, Ottomar Borwitzky, Wolfgang Böttcher, Peter Steiner, Heinrich Majowski, Gerhard Woschny, Rudolf Weinsheimer, Christoph Kapler, Alexander Wedow, Klaus Häussler, Jörg Baumann, Götz-Wolfgang Teutsch)
rec. 30 September 1975, Nationalgalerie, Berlin
ACANTA 233497 [48:02]
As well as such artists as Paganini and Liszt who are well known to the wider musical world as both instrumentalists and composers there exists a second group whose reputation is largely confined to players and devotees of their own instruments. Such a one is Julius Klengel, who is remembered as a teacher as well as a composer and performer. His pupils at the Leipzig Conservatoire included Feuermann, Suggia and Piatigorsky. He wrote many technical exercises and produced editions of many works for cello by other composers as well as original works. It is only proper that a label entitled Cello Classics should pay tribute to him, and this they have done in an imaginative and largely satisfactory way.
Let me get the only - minor - criticism out of the way quickly. Klengel made a number of recordings as a player, four of which are included here. They certainly make fascinating listening, illustrating very well the extensive use of portamento referred to in Sarah Butcher’s notes. No indication is given however of the dates or circumstances under which they were recorded. The transfers seem clear and appear to suggest two distinct dates, but this is mere guesswork. The more showy pieces sound best, the Bach and Tartini by comparison sounding effortful as well as inevitably being played in a style which is not fashionable today. My criticism is of the lack of information which prevents the listener placing these recordings in relation to Klengel’s wider career and teaching. In themselves they are interesting but they do not add much to this picture of Klengel.
For that we have to go to his own compositions, presented imaginatively in increasing order of the number of cellos employed. First comes the lengthy Capriccio for unaccompanied cello, played with total conviction and great virtuosity by Raphael Wallfisch. This is a technical tour de force, employing just about every device available to the instrument. As a way of demonstrating the full range of a player’s abilities it must be unequalled. For the listener it can seem a little unrelenting at times; I am glad to have heard it, especially in such a performance, but I do not think I am likely to wish to repeat the experience very often.
The remaining works however I have already listened to repeatedly with increasing pleasure. No stylistic boundaries are extended, and there is little here that might be described as being of great musical consequence, but they are unfailingly beautiful and illuminatingly laid out for the instruments concerned. If after listening to the works for two and three cellos you had come to the conclusion that Klengel was a rather serious, even solemn, figure the Impromptu may change your mind. It was presumably written for a specific occasion and starts with Now thank we all our God and ends with Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Best of all is the well-known Hymnus for twelve cellos, written to the memory of the conductor Nikisch and played at his funeral. It has the merits of brevity, beauty and obvious sincerity. Like all the pieces for multiple cellos here it is played and recorded faultlessly.
The other disc also includes the Hymnus, again in a very convincing performance, but the remaining contents of this somewhat ungenerously filled disc of a public concert are very different. It starts with an arrangement of a Suite by David Funck. This is pleasant and undemanding if scarcely compelling. The Blacher and Français items are of much greater interest, both being written especially for “the 12 cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic”. The former makes use of aspects of the various idioms referred to in its title without being a mere pastiche. The latter is in six short movements, none longer than three and a half minutes, and makes imaginative use of the skill of the twelve players all within in the composer’s familiar idiom.
Both discs have an obvious appeal to cellists, but it would be a great pity if others were to ignore them because of this specialist appeal. If I had to choose I would go for the Klengel for the chance to explore the possibilities he exploits with different combinations of cellos, but the breathtaking virtuosity of the Berlin cellists is also well worth hearing. If you enjoy the sound of multiple cellos it may be better not to choose but to have both.
John Sheppard
An obvious appeal to cellists but it would be a great pity if others were to ignore these discs. 

see also review of the Klengel celebration disc by Jonathan Woolf