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] 
Sonnenuntergang [Sunset] 
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 


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