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August KLUGHARDT (1847-1902)
Lenore, Symphonische Dichtung in vier Abteilungen, Op. 27 (1873) [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]

The first thing you hear when playing track one of this CD is the ‘sound’ of the live acoustic; however, once the music starts, it ceases to be a problem. This was my first encounter with the music of Klughardt, and it was a very enjoyable experience. It is a passionate work, and may or may not be his second symphony, since it is listed as a symphony in his own catalogue, but was published as a four-part symphonic poem. The booklet suggests that this arose because Klughardt did not want to cause any embarrassment between himself and Raff, who had also just completed his Lenore Symphony. The work is nominally in four movements, although the second (scherzo), translates into the slow third movement.

The first movement portrays Lenore awakening from anxious dreams, wondering when her lover, Wilhelm will return from the wars. Klughardt writes music that unsurprisingly draws upon his German musical heritage, but despite being an adherent to the New German School, the stylistic influence of Schumann can be detected. The second movement opens with a military march, representing Wilhelm in battle. It is a memorable, at times florid, propulsive affair, and it cannot be criticised for sounding too militaristic, because that is precisely what it is. It morphs into the anguished slow movement, representing Lenore’s despair when she does not see Wilhelm in the returning soldiers.

Klughardt has distributed quotations from the poem throughout the last part of the score, and so the composer’s representation of the text can be followed. It portrays the return of Wilhelm as an armour-clad ghost, come to carry his would-be bride to their marriage bed, which turns out to be the grave. The music illustrates their horse ride, during which Lenore’s worried questions slowly reveal to her the horrid fate in the offing. Klughardt has been listening to The Ride of the Valkyries here, and his music cannot hide the fact. Nonetheless, musically, it is a most enjoyable ride!
I have really enjoyed this Lenore, and my only significant criticism relates to the live recording which muddies the orchestral textures somewhat. The orchestra plays well and audience nose is minimal, except for the rather tepid applause at the end, which is cut short.

The Gernsheim piece, a “sound poem of a drama” for large orchestra, is thought to be the composer’s last work, and he has not prescribed which drama he had in mind. However, the mix of orchestral cantabile and molto energico passages, not to mention andante amoroso, con fuoco e appassionato and molto agitato suggest that almost any human drama could be associated with the music. Naturally enough, Gernsheim writes quite eclectic music that at times references Wagner or Richard Strauss, but this in no way detracts from the enjoyment to be had from this multifaceted score, which contains sweepingly Romantic string music as well as percussion dominated storm settings. The work culminates in a superb ‘love’ theme (andante amoroso) which is followed by the sounds of strife, leading to the stirring coda, in which the influence of Richard Strauss looms large, initially sounding with the funereal tolling of trombones and gong, saturated by the ‘love’ theme, showing, perhaps, that love conquers all.

This is a splendid work, and I have been delighted to make its acquaintance. The orchestra play very well, and studio recording is much superior to that of the Klughardt. Nonetheless, both works can be thoroughly enjoyed as examples of late German Romanticism. The booklet is well presented with detailed biographical and music notes.

Jim Westhead

Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Jonathan Woolf

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