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August KLUGHARDT (1847-1902)
Symphony No. 5 Op. 71 in C minor (1892-97) [38:51]
Konzertouvertüre - Im Frïhling op. 30 (1869-73) [13:22]
Festouvertüre in E flat major op. 78 (1898-99) [9:21]
Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau/Antony Hermus
rec. Stadthalle Zerbst/Anhalt, Katharina Saal, 19-22 Nov 2012
CPO 777 693-2 [61:36]

When it comes to taking up the lance for largely forgotten German nineteenth century romantics if it’s not Sterling then it’s going to be CPO.
 
In 2008 Swedish Sterling furnished us with a disc of Klughardt in volume 5 of their German Romantics series. The prime item there was the Cello Concerto. In 2011 CPO issued a tightly packed CD of the Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 3. There we heard the same orchestra we hear now but conducted by Golo Berg rather than Antony Hermus; neither were names I had come across before.
 
Poor Klughardt died at age 55 but not before his final three symphonies - he wrote five - had achieved sturdy success. The programme notes tell us that they were frequently performed during his lifetime. How does the Fifth hold up?
 
The Fifth Symphony is a work that shouts unshakable confidence. Its striding musculature is unmistakable. As for the style to expect we hear something that moves between Brahms’ Third and Fourth Symphonies and Schumann’s Fourth and Overture, Scherzo and Finale. The first movement includes some tantalising writing for capricious solo violin - just enough to intrigue rather than to create any symphonic imbalance. The finale occasionally drifts into all-purpose heroics but the experience always gratifies the ears. That fifth and last movement tends to fragment into episodes and fugal asides. It also dwells on stormily legendary material. There’s also a supernatural Weber-like element that teeters on the edge of what we hear in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. It’s given a stirring performance with what sounds like a very large string contingent and notable writing for the trumpets - try the last five minutes of that finale. As with the two overtures the whole thing is put across with evident conviction.
 
A much earlier work, the Konzertouvertüre Im Frühling starts without the surge we might expect from Spring. Instead warm and confiding string writing suggests a more philosophical season although again that confidence is present. I thought more than once of Suk’s orchestral piece Ripening written more than a decade after Klughardt’s death. As this tone-poem scaled piece progresses it has a few tempestuous moments but sun-bathed writing is well to the fore - listen to the blooming writing for horns and strings at about 10:00. I do wonder how deeply spring was rooted into Klughardt’s impulse to write this piece either that or Klughardt saw spring as a much more relaxed and affable affair. Compare Schumann’s impulsively leaping First Symphony Spring and the difference is clear. Once again the music is quite charming. The Festouverture is another late piece but this time quite brief. Its music fits the title with alternating brass fanfares, sweepingly smiling violins, sauntering nobilmente optimism and imperial joy at full tilt.
 
It would now be a natural progression for CPO to include the Fourth Symphony in their long-term plans. After enjoying the undemanding yet substantial pleasures of these three works I hope we will not have to wait too long for the next substantial Klughardt piece. His is by no means an original voice but he makes pleasing music and we need more of it.
 
Rob Barnett 



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