August Klughardt: String Quintet, Piano Quintet / Leipzig String Quartet

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KLUGHARDT Piano Quintet. 1 String Quintet 2 • 1 Olga Gollej (pn); 2 Julian Steckel (vc); Leipzig Qrt • MDG 307 1652-2 (70: 07) The...

KLUGHARDT Piano Quintet. 1 String Quintet 2 1 Olga Gollej (pn); 2 Julian Steckel (vc); Leipzig Qrt MDG 307 1652-2 (70: 07)

The piano quartet and quintet seem to be forms that brought out the very best in the lesser-known German Romantic composers, by following the exemplars of Schumann and Brahms. In Fanfare 34:1 I raved about the two quintets of Friedrich Gernsheim and placed that CD on my 2010 Want List, and in 25:2 Raymond Tuttle called the E?-Quartet by Heinrich von Herzogenberg “one of the best works Brahms never wrote.” Now yet another CD revives another such neglected work by a largely forgotten figure.

August Klughardt (1847–1902) earned his living primarily as a conductor; he spent the last 20 years of his life in that role as the director of music for the city of Dessau, where his family had moved when he was 16. He became a disciple of the Liszt/Wagner New German School after meeting Liszt in 1873, but despite that allegiance continued to compose in traditional forms. (Wagner rejected the dedication of Klughardt’s Symphony No. 1, “Leonore,” in 1873 with the ungracious comment that he “perceived the whole merely as a study very much in need of correction in terms of style.” Despite the snub, Klughardt conducted an entire Ring cycle in Dessau 20 years later.) In addition to the two works featured here, Klughardt’s output includes six symphonies (the first unnumbered), concerti for violin and for cello, four operas, an oratorio, two string quartets, a piano trio, and a string sextet later arranged to become his Symphony No. 5. The cello concerto and a wind quintet (which at present has as many recordings as all his other pieces combined) are the most often heard of his infrequently played works.

Three patron spirits hover over Klughardt’s music: Brahms, Schumann, and Liszt. From the first two Klughardt derived the shape of his thematic materials and use of traditional structures, from the latter two a rhapsodic treatment of thematic development that departed from strict sonata form. The Piano Quintet is dominated by its first movement, which lasts for more than 16 of the work’s almost 40 minutes. It opens with a brief, ruminative Lento introduction, which gains momentum and then suddenly erupts into an Allegro con fuoco main section. After the energetic initial theme is stated, there follows a lovely lyrical second subject, and then a boldly arresting, memorable third subject that immediately captures the imagination. The three themes are freely interchanged in a highly dramatic development that leads to a fiery conclusion. While substantial and engaging, the remainder of the quintet is markedly smaller in scale than its Promethean opening. A gentle, songful Adagio provides contrasting repose, followed by an amiable, rather Schumannesque Scherzo and a vigorous Brahmsian finale with a brief and somewhat pedestrian contrapuntal episode.

The Lisztian influence is more to the fore in the String Quintet, which seizes the listener’s attention at its start with a triplet fanfare figure and immediately succeeding violin cadenza redolent of a Hungarian village violinist. While the thematic material of the first three movements has an overall Brahmsian feel, a Hungarian flavor permeates it as well, and this erupts full force in a finale obviously inspired by the czárdás folk dance. The formal development of the whole is very loose and highly reiterative in nature; the work seems almost more of a serenade than something akin to the two quintets of Brahms. It is definitely lighter fare than the Piano Quintet, but quite enjoyable on its own terms.

The celebrated Leipzig Quartet obviously needs no introduction from me, and it plays here with its customary excellence, though it could perhaps use a little more energetic thrust in the finales of both works. Pianist Olga Gollej is completely en rapport with her partners. The recorded sound is clear, albeit a bit disembodied spatially. If the remainder of the disc does not quite live up to the spectacular promise of its opening track, this is nonetheless still a most worthwhile acquisition that makes one curious to hear more of Klughardt’s art, and is warmly recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 01, 2010

  • UPC: 760623165226

  • Catalog Number: 3071652-2

  • Label: MDG

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: August Klughardt

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Leipzig String Quartet

  • Performer: Julian Steckel, Olga Gollej


  1. Quintet for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op. 43

    Composer: August Klughardt

    Ensemble: Leipzig String Quartet

    Performer: Olga Gollej (Piano)

  2. Quintet for Strings in G minor, Op. 62

    Composer: August Klughardt

    Ensemble: Leipzig String Quartet

    Performer: Julian Steckel (Cello), Julian Steckel (Cello)