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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Klughardt's impressive fifth symphony is the stand out work here, 16 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Klughardt: Symphony, No. 5 (Audio CD)
Klughardt's fifth symphony of 1897, as its C minor key signature might suggest, is rather different proposition to the genial, frequently bucolic third symphony that CPO revived on disc a year or so ago*. Its genesis lies in a string sextet the composer had written some years earlier but it's to Klughardt's credit that for the most part one would not imagine that this sometimes turbulent work was originally conceived for forces other than the full orchestra: I say "for the most part" because I did wonder whether the strongly-defined writing for the string sections, which often dominate the orchestral texture in its opening 'Allegro non troppo', betray its origins to some degree (though perhaps I wouldn't have thought so had I not been forearmed with the knowledge of its prior chamber incarnation). It's a finely-argued, quite dramatic sonata form movement, with a strong sense of forward momentum and clearly defined themes, and offers a quite different perspective on the composer to the other symphonic music of his we have in the record catalogue. I can't in all honesty say that the melodic writing in the 'Adagio' that follows is quite so memorable but from his rather reticent material Klughardt surprisingly fashions a movement that is one of the highlights of this score, sonorously scored and ripely Romantic. Curiously, instead of the traditional scheme of scherzo and finale as you might expect, we are next presented with a brief scherzo of stamping vigour (and a solo violin in its trio that reinforces the pronounced echoes here of the same movement in Schumann's fourth symphony) and then an even shorter set of variations on a perky, rather folk-like tune: attractive though this movement might be - and it is without doubt extremely charming, with some winning orchestration - in the context of the symphony as a whole it does rather feel as if it has strayed in from a quite different work altogether. With the substantial finale, the longest movement here, Klughardt returns to something of the mood of the opening 'Allegro' though the sustained seriousness and turbulence of that movement is counterbalanced here with more playful and celebratory passages, which eventually win the day - it contains perhaps the most striking and original music on the disc, particularly in the way the composer melds its quixotic changes of tone and techniques into a convincing and cohesive whole. I have to confess it took me a few listens to get a handle on this movement but now I have, I do think its one of the most impressive individual movements I have heard from Klughardt's pen.

For the remainder of the disc, however, I can't quite muster the same degree of enthusiasm: of the two concert overtures, 'In Spring' Op.30 is undoubtedly the better quality work. There is some attractive melodic writing here, more than a hint at times of Raff (the first movement of his third symphony, 'Im Walde', in particular seems to have been an influence, whether intentional or no, on the first subject of Klughardt's overture), and some effective scoring: the end of the slow introduction with its horn calls and gradually enlivened textures is quite lovely. Generally though, this is a solidly composed work that for all its craftsmanship and charms doesn't really make a lasting impression or stand out from the numerous overtures with or without poetic titles that were written during this period. I enjoy it while I am listening to it but it doesn't linger in the mind for long afterwards. The 'Festival Overture' (written for the jubilee of the Dessau Ducal Court Theatre, though apparently a reworking of an earlier overture written to celebrate an aristocratic marriage)appropriately makes use of two well-known melodies in the principality, a march and a popular song. With its fanfares and pomp it does exactly what is required from such a work though Klughardt doesn't have the ingenuity or imagination - or, at least, doesn't make the effort - to transform these rather banal tunes in the way Brahms had done with the popular melodies used in his 'Academic Festival Overture'; no doubt it served its purpose at the time and it is played well here, I have to say.

As indeed are all the works on the disc: the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau is the same orchestra used to record the previous Klughardt release from CPO though Antony Hermus replaces Golo Berg as the conductor for these recordings. He proves to be as in tune with Klughardt's style as his predecessor and provides well-judged and assured performances throughout. The sound quality while not perhaps outstanding in the way that some CPO recordings have been is very good - warm and natural sounding, the brass come through with impressive presence.

If you're new to Klughardt's orchestral oeuvre, I think I would recommend the disc I've linked to below as the best introduction to it but, variable though the quality of some of the music might be here, admirers of the composer or those curious about hearing more of his work will doubtless be impressed by the fine symphony (and enjoy the incidental pleasures of the overtures too) so it is primarily for that work that I give this disc a firm recommendation.

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* Klughardt: Violin Concerto, Symphony 3
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Klughardt: Symphony, No. 5
Klughardt: Symphony, No. 5 by August Klughardt (Audio CD - 2013)
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