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Paul von KLENAU
Symphony No. 1 in F minor
Symphony No. 5(Triptikon)
Paulo und Francesca

Odense Symphony Orchestra - Jan Wagner
recorded in the Odense Concert Hall - 17-20/5/99- in association with Danish Radio.
DaCapo 8.224134 [69.08] DDD
 Amazon UK  

Paul von Klenau born in 1883 - 1946, is a relatively unknown Danish composer who spent most of his active composing life in Germany, not returning to Denmark until 1940. He was educated in Copenhagen, but left immediately after two years study at the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He studied in Berlin with Max Bruch, and in Munich with Ludwig Thuille and later with Max Schillings.

Given his background you can probably imagine what these works sound like before even hearing them - Bruckner like sonorities with a firm grasp of orchestration although with a restricted ability for writing distinctive melodies. The orchestra is the full Bruckner orchestra, including eight horns, organ, four tubas 2 harps and bass drum.

The first symphony displays the influence of Beethoven and Bruckner and was first performed in Munich in 1908. It is written in five movements the first being a very short introduction to the work, lasting only three minutes, acting as the introduction to the second section. After this introduction, the second movement proper gets under way with surging themes, albeit a little obtuse thematically, but impressive nevertheless. We then have a very expressive adagio, in the style of Bruckner, followed by a scherzo and capped off with an allegro which develops into a hugely triumphant finale, which is supplemented by the organ.

The fifth symphony is a much later work, written in 1939, about the time Klenau returned to live in Denmark, and was one of three symphonies written at that time. He had returned to symphonic writing after having had written seven operas in the intervening twenty years in Germany.

These later symphonies were more concise and tighter harmonically, and reflecting the influences of other European composers, notably Wagner and early Berg and Schoenberg. These influences were no doubt strong because the composer was at the time enjoying an extremely active career as a conductor, and he had made a speciality of such works as Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder", Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande" and Richard Strauss's early orchestral works.

The fifth is in three movements fast, slow, faster, and will repay repeated hearings. The writing and orchestration is tighter and the symphony lasts less than a third of the time of the first, and does not sag quite as much as the earlier work.

Paulo und Francesca was a popular tale to set to music at the turn of the century, and although you won't find a Tchaikovsky masterpiece here, the symphonic fantaisie is well worth a listen. Unlike Tchaikovsky's fantasy, rather than end the work with a return to the swirling storms of Dante's Hell, the piece ends with a representation of the sorrow of Dante over the fate of the two lovers.

As far as I can tell, the performances are first class, with a clear and forthright recording quality plus a good set of multi-lingual notes - well worth buying and enjoying.

John Phillips

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