Piano Quintet in g minor, Op.43
August Klughardt (1847-1902) was born in the German town of Köthen in Saxon-Anhalt. After studying music locally, Klughardt began to earn his living by conducting. He served in several locales, including Weimar where he worked from 1869 to 1873. There, he met Franz Liszt, which was very important for his creative development. While influenced by Wagner and Liszt, Klughardt did not by any means entirely adopt the ideology of their New German School, refusing to write tone poems and instead concentrating on symphonies and chamber music. The influence of Robert Schumann, and to a lesser extent Brahms, certainly is equally important. It was his failure to whole-heartedly adopt Lisztian principals which led to his being labeled as a conservative composer. Klughardt received considerable recognition as composer and won many distinctions, but today, sadly, his music, with the exception of one or two pieces, is entirely forgotten.
Though there had been a few others before it, Robert Schumann’s 1844 Piano Quintet put the genre on the map and his example was followed by Brahms, Kiel, Raff and Reinecke to name but the most prominent. Toward the end of the 19th century, the piano quintet began to go in two different directions. In the first, the genre retained the intimacy of chamber music, but in the second it veered toward symphonic style. Klughardt’s Piano Quintet, composed in 1884, shows both of these tendencies. It is clear that Schumann’s work, structurally though not tonally, served as an example for him. The sophisticated and extensive Lento introduction was a technique used by Schumann and others as a way setting the mood in chamber music with piano. The theme which emerges from it lends the main part of the movement, Allegro con fuoco, its impassioned, urgent character. Of particular note is the richly contrasting accompaniment, including the use of church tonal modes and a particularly striking hymn-like third theme played in octaves. The lovely Adagio which follows can be styled as a Song Without Words. The third movement, Moderato, molto espressivo, though in 6/8 time is not a scherzo but an interesting combination of a waltz which turns into something else altogether, full of excitement and forward motion. The big finale, Allegro non troppo, begins with a march-like anthem, which in part recalls the opening of the quintet. The development is altogether more lyrical and leads to the brief appearance of a second theme which quickly gives way to the opening subject, this time performed fugally. A powerful coda brings this unjustly neglected and fine work to its close.
Out of print for nearly a century, we are pleased to reintroduce a work which should be in the repertoire and recommend it to professionals and amateurs alike.