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August KLUGHARDT (1847-1902) Lenore, Symphonische Dichtung in vier Abteilungen, Op. 27 (1870s) [33:09] Friedrich GERNSHEIM (1839-1916)
Zu einem Drama, Tondichtung für grosses Orchester, Op. 82 (1902) [17:58]
Anhaltische Philharmonie/Manfred Mayrhofer (Klughardt)
SWR Radiofunkorchester Kaiserslauten/Klaus Arp (Gernsheim)
rec. live, 14 Oct 2002 (Klughardt); 6 July 1995, Kaiserslautern studio (Gernsheim) STERLING CDS1096-2 [51:07]
German composer Klughardt has done remarkably well in the recorded revival stakes and his countryman Gernsheim has been slowly catching up. The present Sterling disc has value in filling out each of their pictures with two first recordings. One of them has been sitting on the shelf, no doubt awaiting a suitable companion, since 1995.
The 24 year old August Klughardt, much associated with musical activity at Dessau, but spent earlier years at Dresden, Neustrelitz and Lübeck. He was praised and encouraged by Liszt in 1871. His symphonies have been recorded by CPO (3, 4, 5). Given that this four movement Lenore - termed a Symphonic Poem in four movements - may well be his Symphony No. 2, only symphonies 1 and 6 are to follow. Of his concertos, the Violin Concerto can be found on the same CPO disc as the Third Symphony while the Cello Concerto is on an earlier Sterling CD. The second and third movements are here in a single track so there is bound to be some initial puzzlement that a four-part work is presented in only three tracks. We should not be unduly detained by the literary programme but the liner-note is solicitous in giving us the composer's movement superscriptions: choice extracts from Bürger's ballad are there in both German and English.
You might recall the subject of Lenore from another German-speaking composer, Raff. His 1872 Fifth Symphony carried Raff's name shoulder-high in the 1970s and 1980s in the form of Bernard Herrmann's LPO-Unicorn recording (reissued as Unicorn-Kanchana CD2031). Two other versions of the Raff have come along since then (Järvi and Stadlmair) and these quicker readings have raised questions about Herrmann's tempi. Alan Krueck, in his liner-essay, theorises usefully that Klughardt might have re-titled what would otherwise have been his Second Symphony to that which appears at the head of this review and that this was done deferentially to show respect to Raff. Whatever the true situation we should consider the music. The first movement of the Klughardt is stirring in a manner that suggests Bruch, Liszt and even Tchaikovsky. It can also take pride in a nice long melody of some quality. The combined second/third movement has the bearing of a self-possessed summer's night march. At 1:47 (and later) it explodes into a thunderous ringing grand march which suggest that the army in question have no need for concealment. The brass are forthright (a little like Aida which lay in the future) as if the concern is with parade-ground magnificence. It tips over into bombast at 4:00 but make no mistake this is a good march smartly executed. The third movement is more placid and ends in silvery calm. The finale has the confident chivalric bearing of the second movement but ends in peace and applause from an otherwise tacit audience.
Gernsheim's respect for Brahms shows in this tone poem to an unspecified drama. The music has serenity and seems to celebrate the gentler emotions too much for its own structural good. When things become more animated the plunging and tempest-tossed writing recalls Brahms' First Symphony. It is satisfying to have access to this work which ends in a surging slow-pulsed triple forte. No applause this time. CPO have already issued a CD of Gernsheim's Symphonies 1 and 3. Arte Nova and the conductor Siegfried Kohler, a couple of decades ago, gave us all four of his symphonies in a very sensibly packaged double. CPO have also turned up trumps for Gernsheim's violin concertos and Hyperion have brought out the Cello Concerto.
The liner-notes are in German and in English translation.
With feet planted firmly in the late nineteenth century these are full-on works from close to the high noon of German late-romanticism. They are well done by German regional orchestras and their heroic conductors. It's fascinating to come into contact with works - especially the Klughardt - that were being heard in Germany at times we more readily associate with Brahms, Mahler and the young Strauss.