R SCHUMANN Three Romances for Oboe & Piano (12′)
BRAHMS Viola Sonata Op.120 No.1 (23′)
KLUGHARDT Five Schilflieder (20′)
Luxurious music from three Romantic masters. Schumann’s three romances are beguiling, colourful works that showcase the contrasting tones of the oboe and piano. Brahms’s rhapsodic sonata is characterised by a yearning intensity that builds toward a lively conclusion by way of a widely celebrated, achingly beautiful slow movement. Klughardt’s evocative and dreamy ‘Songs of the Reeds’ entwine the three distinct musical voices of viola, oboe and piano to describe a wanderer’s journey through changing scenes and weather, concluding in gentle moonlight.
SCHUMANN Robert, Three Romances for Oboe and Piano
Having written pieces for clarinet and horn early in 1849, Schumann finished what he called his ‘most fruitful year’ with the Three Romances for oboe and piano, completed at Christmas 1849. Like the Fantasy Pieces for clarinet, the Romances were written for domestic performance, described by the American musicologist Stephen Hefling as ‘Poetic Hausmusik’. But in Schumann’s case, there’s a reflective quality that invests these pieces with a depth that goes beyond their modest purpose.
© Nigel Simeone
BRAHMS Johannes, Viola Sonata in F minor Op.120 No.1
Andante un poco adagio
When Brahms wrote his two clarinet sonatas for his muse Richard Mühlfeld during a summer at Ischl in 1894, he always conceived alternative versions of them with a viola in place of the clarinet. He made careful alterations to create idiomatic viola parts and when the two sonatas were published in June 1895 they were issued with both clarinet and viola parts (Brahms also made versions for violin as well).
The viola is certainly ideally suited to the darker hues of the F minor Sonata. The differences in the viola version are mostly to do with passages taken down an octave, the occasional addition of appoggiaturas and double stoppings as well as changes to expression and dynamic markings, while the piano part remains completely unchanged. The viola versions present the same music in subtly different instrumental colours and in both works this provides a distinctive alternative view.
The F minor Sonata is in four movements: the first is often stern and dramatic, though there are some heart-stoppingly beautiful moments of repose. The movement ends quietly in F major. The Andante un poco adagio that follows (in A flat major) has a restrained eloquence that makes a profound but extremely poetic impact. With the Allegretto grazioso the mood genial – a scherzo substitute that serves as a kind of lyrical intermezzo. Robust and forthright, the finale opens in F major – its expressive intentions made clear from the three repeated notes that begin the main theme – and brings the work to an impassioned conclusion.
© Nigel Simeone
KLUGHARDT August, Schilflieder Op.28
Drüben geht die Sonne scheiden [The sun is sinking over there]
Trübe wirds, die Wolken jagen [Darkness falls, the clouds are flying]
Auf geheimen Waldespfade [Along a secret forest path]
Auf dem Teich, dem regungslosen [On the pond, the motionless one]
August Klughardt may not be a familiar name today, but his career as a composer and conductor was distinguished. In 1869 he moved Weimar to become music director at the ducal court, and there he met and befriended Franz Liszt. A few years later he met Wagner and became associated with the New German School, a group of young composers who promoted the progressive values of Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz. But Klughardt was also attracted to Schumann’s music and to conventional forms (he wrote six symphonies). The Schilflieder (‘Reed Songs’) were composed in 1872 during his time in Weimar, are they notable for several reasons. First, there’s the instrumental combination for oboe, viola and piano – an ensemble for which very little has been composed. Second, the poetic inspiration is quite explicit: in the published score, Nikolaus Lenau’s poems are printed above the music, almost like song lyrics, with specific moments and moods reflected by Klughardt in his sensitive musical reflections on Lenau’s melancholy tales of man amid nature. Third, the score bears a fine dedication: ‘To Franz Liszt, in deepest admiration’ – an indication of the warm friendship between the two composers at this time.
Published in 1832, Lenau’s Schilflieder have been set as songs by numerous composers from Robert Franz in 1842 to Schoenberg and Berg at the turn of the century, but Klughardt’s instrumental settings are notable for being a piece of chamber music that is so intimately linked to the poems that inspired it. Lenau’s poems prompted several great composers to write purely instrumental music – Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No.1, Richard Strauss’s Don Juan and the third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No.3 – but Klughardt in his Schilflieder seems to be the only composer to have taken Lenau as the source for a piece of chamber music. The subtitle – ‘Fantasiestücke’ – at once recalls Schumann, and his influence is strong throughout these five pieces. The first, is marked ‘slow and dreamy’ and the second ‘Impassioned’. The central movement, ‘Gentle, quietly moving’ is followed by the most dramatic of the five, marked ‘Fiery’, and the final piece brings the set to close in a mood of tranquillity.
© Nigel Simeone