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KARL KLINGLER: Violin Concerto—Viola Sonata—Ulf Hoelscher, violin—Karl Klingler, Viola—Michael Raucheisen, piano—Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Volker Schmidt-Gertenbach, conductor—DG Archiv, MDG 642 2103-2—82:31, ***

This is a reissue of a recording made in 1979 of Karl Klingler’s 1907 Violin Concerto. In addition, an undated performance of Klingler’s 1909 Viola Sonata is performed by the composer.  This generously timed CD (82’31) is a musical window into the life of of a significant musical personality in early 20th century Europe.

Karl Klingler (1879-1971) was the son of a professional viola player and at age 5 was performing the violin in public. At age 17 he was a pupil and eventually a friend of the famous violinist Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), who premiered Brahms’ Violin Concerto. Klingler learned composition from Max Bruch. Three years after joining the Berlin Philharmonic, he became the orchestra’s deputy concertmaster. Concurrently he played viola in the “Joachim Quartet.” Later, he formed his own quartet. By 1910 he replaced Joachim as “King of Prussia Professor” at the Berlin University of the Arts.

Klingler fought in World War I, but at the end he was assigned as a musician in support of troop welfare. For eight years, beginning in 1920 he was teacher of Shinichi Suzuki, influencing the Suzuki method of violin instruction. Despite his Jewish wife and his close association with Joachim, Klingler survived the Nazi years as a musician. But in 1936, the Klingler Quartet ceased operations under Nazi pressure because the cellist (Ernst Silberstein) was Jewish. He lost his professorship in 1936 and went into “internal emigration,” composing and surviving on a modest civil service pension. The end of the war allowed him to escape a Gestapo arrest warrant. He continued as a chamber musician and composer until his death in 1971.

As a violinist Klingler played the late Romantic concertos—especially the Brahms Concert—and the Violin Concerto (1907) on this disc was composed in that style. The first movement’s opulent orchestral introduction leads to a beautiful violin theme that is woven into the almost 19 minute sonata structure. The slow movement has its beauty, but it wanders without any real shape that maintains musical interest. The ebullient final movement is replete with virtuosic turns and a brief cadenza, ending serenely. The 1979 recording is clear and Ulf Hoelscher and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra capture the romantic essence of the work.

Karl Klingler died at age 91, and the Viola Sonata on this CD has no date. Performed by the composer, the recording here is rather dim by modern standards.  Unfortunately the composer’s performance is marred by unsecure intonation. Yet, Klingler’s warmth and passion is to be acknowledged. The work is stylistically similar to the Violin Concerto, but without its melodic interest. At over 42 minutes, it outstays its welcome.

An interesting subtext to this release is the establishment of the Karl Klingler Foundation,  established by his daughter Marianne-Migault Klingler. It provides a vehicle for the support of the Suzuki concept of violin playing for all. There is a recording of “The Klingler Quartet 1905-1936 – The Joachim Tradition” (Testament 2136).  The Karl Klingler String Quartet Competitions’ scholarships started in 1979. This is clearly a CD issued in memory of Karl Klingler. The Violin Concerto will be of interest to collectors of romantic violin concertos.

—Robert Moon