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Jonathan Woolf
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August KLUGHARDT (1847-1902)
Concert Overture in G major, op. 45 (1884) [11:07]
Konzertstück for oboe and orchestra, op. 18 (ca 1870) [9:13]
Cello Concerto in A minor, op. 59 (1894) [18:09]
Auf der Wanderschaft, Suite for orchestra, op. 67 (1896) [16:56]
Rolf-Julius Koch (oboe)
Horst Beckedorf (cello)
NDR Radiophilarmonie/Willy Steiner (overture, suite), Curt Cremer (oboe), Hans Herbert Jöris (concerto)
rec. 1975-80, Saal 1, WDR (oboe), other locations not given
STERLING CDS1054-2 [55:15]

August Klughardt is one of those composers whose important in their time quickly dissipated after death. These performances from forty years ago must have been quite a novelty. In the last decade, his music, unheard for much of the twentieth century, has undergone something of a revival. Four of his five symphonies have been recorded by Sterling and CPO (review ~ review ~ review), his symphonic poem Lenore on another Sterling release was received favourably by Rob Barnett (review) and I was impressed by his piano trio, or at least the majority of it (review).

His professional career as conductor and occasional concert pianist took him around a number of German cities, most importantly Weimar, where he came under the influence of Liszt and Wagner. He attended the first Bayreuth festival in 1876, hearing the Ring cycle. Despite this, his music is more redolent of Schumann and Brahms.

The overture that opens the disc begins in fine fashion with horn fanfares and answering calls from the woodwinds. There are some Wagnerian moments, but the string writing that follows could have come from Schumann’s piano concerto. Klughardt has the ability to write appealing melodies, not a common quality among the lower rank composer, and there is good instrumental colour throughout. Without wishing to diminish the other works, this is the pick of the four, and would grace any symphony concert program as a novel opening piece.

The Konzertstück for oboe is relatively brief for a Romantic concertante work, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing: I have remarked in previous reviews that many unsung composers are in part that way because they lacked the quality of concision. In truth, as much as I love the oboe, this is not a great piece, rather lacking in melody as the soloist struggles to be heard over the orchestra. The middle Adagio section works best. It should be noted that this is, by more than a decade, the earliest work on the disc, and it certainly shows.

The cello concerto, in one movement, is much better. There are some lovely melodies that Dvořák would have been proud to incorporate in his concerto, and the orchestral accompaniment has a good deal more interest. Yes, there are places where inspiration flags, but as with the overture, this would not be out of place in a concert program, not that I expect to see it while symphony orchestra scheduling remains so unimaginative.

Auf der Wanderschaft (On the tramp) is a suite of six short pieces, originally written for piano, and inspired by a holiday in the Harz mountains. It is strongly influenced by Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, though sadly not as memorable. Enjoyable, if slight.

The performances, with no point of comparison, seem eminently satisfactory; it must be difficult for the players to learn such works for perhaps only a single performance. The sound quality is perfectly fine, with a decent amount of detail. The notes by Christopher Fifield are all one could want, or indeed expect. Yes, 55 minutes is not getting full value from the capacity of the CD, but these recordings date from the LP era.

The hunter of the unsung will find much to enjoy here.

David Barker

Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Jonathan Woolf



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