August KLUGHARDT (1847-1902)
Symphony No.4 in C minor, Op.57 (1890) [37:43]
Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op.87 (1901) [16:02]
Anhalt Philharmonic Orchestra, Dessau/Antony Hermus
rec. April (Symphony) and December 2011, Stadthalle Zerbst, Anhalt, Katharnina-Saal
CPO 777740-2 [53:48]

CPO’s series devoted to the music of August Klughardt arrives at the Fourth Symphony of 1890. This is a solid 39-minute affair, with the opening Allegro non troppo considered his single best symphonic movement by contemporary writers, and all but unheard in our time. Premiered in Berlin, performances in Dresden and Dessau soon followed, after which the work went to print.

There’s a characteristically life-enhancing rising motif in that opening movement as well as all manner of pertly post-Weber wind motifs and horn calls. The string melodies are buoyant, with an inclination to a swinging lyricism and the rather beautiful slow movement chorale migrates through the orchestra, allowing the listener to appreciate Klughardt’s powers of orchestration before an almost tragic-sounding transition takes the music in other directions. Heroism and beauty are held in fine balance here, whereas folkloric elements infuse the scherzo, both droll and also pastoral. A fugue soon develops in the finale, and though this is so often an academic impediment here it takes on a self-confident grandeur. A reflective passage allows a final glimpse of standard romantic dualities before the final commanding C major conclusion. Objectors will doubtless cite romantic commonplaces in this work but those sympathetic to the idiom will enjoy, as I did, the zesty control Klughardt demonstrates as well as some ingenious colouristic moments and fine themes.

The Three Pieces, Op. 87 was his last orchestral work, premiered in 1901, the year before the composer’s death from a heart condition. He didn’t much use the harp in his symphonic writing but he turned to it here, and it adds a deft touch of rippling bardic colour to the characteristically finely hewn string themes. The central movement is a festive Gavotte, with a fair complement of heavy, brassy triumphalism, and the finale is a Tarantella, both tangy and characterful. This is Klughardt in genuinely unbuttoned form, the work making a good foil for the altogether more imposing, but similarly witty, symphony.

As usual CPO’s documentation is excellent and so is the recording, capturing the Anhalt Philharmonic Orchestra, Dessau in fine form under the perceptive Antony Hermus. If you are curious about Klughardt I don’t see any reason not to start your symphonic voyage with his Fourth Symphony. You may well be pleasantly surprised.

Jonathan Woolf

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