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Karl KLINGLER (1879-1971)
Violin Concerto in E major (1907) [39:21]
Viola Sonata in D minor (1909) [42:59]
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach
Ulf Hoelscher (violin)
Karl Klingler (viola), Michael Raucheisen (piano)
rec. 1979, Herkulessaal der Residenz München (Concerto), no details for the Sonata
MDG 642 2103-2 [82:31]

For those not familiar with him, Karl Klingler was a violinist, deputy concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic under Arthur Nikisch, composer and teacher. I'd only heard of him in connection with the Klingler Quartet. Born in Strasbourg in 1879, he studied the violin from the age of seventeen with Joseph Joachim, and composition with Max Bruch and Robert Kahn. Later he was to succeed Joseph Joachim in his Berlin professorship. The Klingler Quartet, formed in 1905, preserved the tone quality and music style of the Joachim Quartet. Klingler was called up for military service in World War 1 and the ensemble was temporarily disbanded, resuming its concert-giving and recording activities when hostilities ceased. As a composer, Klingler’s works include chamber music, songs and the Violin Concerto in E major we have here. He died in 1971, aged ninety-one.

The composer was in his late twenties when he wrote the E major Violin Concerto in 1907. That same year he premièred it with the Berlin Philharmonic. It's a lush, romantic piece, set for large orchestral forces, and Brahms seems to be an abiding influence. A lengthy orchestral tutti, where the composer sets out his stall, precedes the soloist's first entry. I found the movement's melodic largesse immensely appealing. It's certainly the work of an accomplished violinist, such is the technical virtuosity called for, with its breath-taking scale passages into the higher reaches and fiendish double-stops. The attractive Adagio, which follows, has a certain nobility. The soloist's pleading theme is tender, ardent and song-like. Klingler rounds the concerto off with a finale of wit, glee and gleam. I must comment on Ulf Hoelscher's impressive technique, surmounting every obstacle with consummate ease. He also possesses a beautifully rich tone and impeccable intonation. The work could have no better advocate.

Two years later in 1909 came the Sonata for Viola and Piano. Klingler was equally proficient on this instrument as on the violin. In this performance he takes the viola part, partnered by Michael Raucheisen. The work is structured in four movements. The opening moderato is a rhapsodic, passionate narrative between both instruments. The allegro second movement sounds very Brahmsian to my ears. It’s a scherzo in all but name. The song-like slow movement has a bitter-sweet quality. Klingler’s old-fashioned portamenti may not be to everyone’s taste, sounding rather ungainly at times, and we must also forgive him the occasional intonation lapse. The final movement has determined buoyancy, giving way to more elegiac sections.

The recordings are issued in MDG's 'Archive' series. The concerto was recorded back in 1979, but sounds freshly minted. The provenance of the recording of the Sonata for Viola and Piano cannot be determined. The sound quality is fairly dimly recessed, but perfectly acceptable. It constitutes a priceless recorded document and, as such, I'm immensely grateful for its issue.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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