Klughardt: Symphony No. 3; Violin Concerto / Berg, Tschopp, Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau

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KLUGHARDT Violin Concerto. Symphony No. 3 Golo Berg, cond; Mirjam Tschopp (vn); Anhalt P CPO 777 465-2 (77:51)

Tired of listening to the Schumann symphonies? Not interested in still another newfangled maestro’s take on the Brahms symphonies? Find Spohr’s boring? Weber’s too bland? Bruckner’s too long? August Klughardt’s Third may be just your cup of tea. Likewise the Violin Concerto, custom-made for listeners who need a break from the Mendelssohn, Bruch, and Wieniawski examples.

Klughardt (1847–1902) retains a toehold in the classical record catalog almost solely on the basis of a woodwind quintet, and even that is not often heard. Now comes a significant addition to his tiny discography, two major orchestral works splendidly played, recorded in a vivid acoustic environment, and conducted with great verve and panache. In fact, these performances are so good they might well be even better than the music itself.

The opening seconds of the first track (the Violin Concerto) grab your attention equally for the attractiveness of the theme, the assertiveness of the playing, and the bright, natural acoustic environment. The 40-minute concerto, composed in 1895, is packed to the hilt with sumptuous melodies (the first movement’s second subject will melt your heart, and there’s one in the finale that brings to mind swaying palm trees and island breezes). It is hard to imagine any listener resisting this fine work, while soloists in search of a new concerto to add to their repertoire will find Klughardt’s eminently rewarding.

Swiss-born violinist Mirjam Tschopp certainly plays it as if she does, in a performance imbued with commitment, technical flair, and earnest musicianship. Here is still another extremely talented violinist with much to say to the world, yet I’ve never encountered her before. Curious to know what else this outstanding musician has recorded, I checked what there might be on ArkivMusic. My search turned up just two items from the past 11 years, both by composers even more obscure than Klughardt (Barry Brenesal warmly praised her account of Saygun’s Violin Concerto in Fanfare 29:2).

The Third Symphony, too, will bring much joy to listeners in search of traditional, four-movement Romantic symphonies, this one composed in 1879. Its key of D Major (like the Violin Concerto) almost guarantees that it is going to be an affirmative, joyful work, and that it certainly is. Its opening may bring to mind the opening of the finale of Brahms’s Second Symphony. The historian Hermann Kretzschmar described the third movement as being “like a merry ballad telling of olden times, of the mighty deeds of knights and heroes, of tournaments and courtly quests, of escapades and adventures.” If this begins to sound like Bruckner’s Fourth, you’re not far off, at least in spirit.

The Anhalt Philharmonic of Dessau is a first-class ensemble with a long history (the extensive bio traces its origins back to the mid 18th century). Conductor Golo Berg ensures clean, crisp rhythms, forward drive without force, and fine balance, resulting in performances of almost irresistible attractiveness. Ronald Müller’s fine program notes tell you everything you always wanted to know about Klughardt’s Violin Concerto and Third Symphony. This disc is definitely headed for my year-end Want List.

FANFARE: Robert Markow

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777465-2

  • UPC: 761203746521

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: August Klughardt

  • Conductor: Golo Berg

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau

  • Performer: Mirjam Tschopp