Classical Music | Music for Oboe

August Klughardt

Schilflieder: Five Fantasy Pieces for Piano, Oboe, and Viola, Op. 28  Play

Alex Klein Oboe
Richard Young Viola
Kuang-Hao Huang Piano

Recorded on 09/26/2013, uploaded on 01/09/2013

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

While researching possibilities for our CD, we came across a number of unexpected treasures.  One of the most unlikely was Schilflieder since August Klughardt is virtually unknown today, even among most professional musicians.  During his career as a Kapellmeister in Posen, Neustrelitz, Lubeck, and Dessau, Klughardt wrote numerous operas, symphonic works and some chamber music.  Not one of his compositions has found its way into the standard repertoire, however, although his woodwind quintet is occasionally mentioned by wind players.  Nevertheless, despite its obscurity, this piece for piano, oboe, and viola is hauntingly beautiful and deserves to be heard.   

Schilflieder (Songs of the Reeds) was composed in 1872 in a grand romantic spirit reminiscent of Franz Liszt, to whom it was dedicated.  Its five pieces are based on poems by Nikolaus Lenau, whose verses are printed in the score above the relevant passages.  They tell the story of a man who has lost the love of his life.  Overwhelmed by despair, he withdraws to a secluded place by a pond where reeds grow in the shallow waters near the shore.  Here he grieves and reminisces about his lost love. 

From the very first moments of the first piece, one is overwhelmed by the man’s private pathos.  Different memories are subsequently evoked by changes in the weather and the light – as in the second piece, when wind and pelting rain envelop the familiar scene by the pond.  The third piece is a hushed and vulnerable dream – a bittersweet recollection of happier days.  [Alban Berg used this same Lenau poem for one of his Seven Early Songs.]  In the fourth piece, a violent thunderstorm is in full fury when a burst of lightening suddenly illuminates what appears to be the woman’s face reflected in the surface of the pond, her rain-soaked hair whipped about by the howling wind. 

As colorful and dramatic as the music is thus far, Klughardt saves the very best for last.  For in the fifth piece, the two lovers appear at last to “talk” to each other!  After a soul-wrenching outpouring in the viola comes a heavenly 2-note “cry” in the oboe.  Just as Robert Schumann evokes his beloved “Cla-ra” with a 2-note falling fifth (in his third string quartet and the piano quintet), the woman here calls out with a 2-note falling sixth.  What follows is a touchingly poignant “conversation” – his still-tormented soul expressed by the viola, her more reassuring voice by the oboe.  The two eventually “harmonize” one another in music of sincere and heartfelt rapture.  And in one extraordinary moment near the very end, just after “a quiet evening prayer,” the oboe’s tender melody is seamlessly passed to the viola, as if the lovers’ salty tears are mingling one last time.  All prior despair is reconciled as this deeply moving work concludes with a soft but wistful “cry” – yet again, a falling sixth.     Richard Young