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August Klughardt
August Klughardt

The curious Klughardt coincidences

August Klughardt (1847-1902) was a composer and "journeyman" kapellmeister in several small German cities, to paraphrase Dr Alan Krueck's description of him in his fascinating paper on the Klughardt/Raff coincidences. His aesthetic journey was similar to Raff's own. Beginning to compose in the style of Schumann, he came under the powerful spell of Liszt and his circle, only to detach himself from it and attain independence in the artistic middle ground. He eventually became a respected, if minor, member of the musical establishment, his catalogue including works in most genres - notably five symphonies and four operas.

In the first half of his career, he must have felt dogged by Raff's reputation because of a strange string of coincidences which led him to compose no less than three major works which mirrored compositions by his older and more famous compatriot.

The first piece was his Dornröshen (Sleeping Beauty) of the mid-1860s. This large work for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra was praised for its melodic beauty and fine orchestration but, despite receiving at least five performances in quick succession, it was never published. At the time Klughardt had yet to join Liszt's circle in Weimar and so he was probably unaware that ten or so years earlier, Raff too had composed his own "Epic Fairy Tale" Dornröshen - and for the same forces. This work had been praised by Liszt and others at the time of its premiere in 1856 but it too remained unpublished.

Klughardt could not, however, have been ignorant of Raff and his growing reputation when he wrote his first symphony, Waldleben (Forest Life) in 1871. This was two years after Raff had composed his own Symphony No.3 Im Walde (In the Forest) which by then had already gained huge popularity. Any similarity between the two works did not prevent the young composer pressing Raff to arrange for a performance of his piece in Wiesbaden and neither did it prevent Raff assisting in giving it an airing in 1873.

That Klughardt wrote a work celebrating the forest is hardly surprising. Love of woodlands remains a central feature of the German psyche and music celebrating the forests and activities associating with them was being written all the time by German composers. As Waldleben was first withdrawn by him and has since been lost, quite how similar the two works were is open to conjecture. Clearly Raff was unworried by the prospect of competition and Klughardt's work was allowed to make its own, ultimately unsuccessful, way in the world.

It was Klughardt's misfortune, however, to choose as the subject for his second symphony the same gothic ballad as that used by Raff for his masterwork in the genre - Bürger's Lenore. Raff's masterpiece, his Symphony No.5, was completed in December 1872 and it appears, from correspondence from Klughardt to Raff recently unearthed by Dr Krueck, that by that time the younger man had already completed his own symphony based on the poem. Indeed it seems that at an earlier stage they had shared a conversation in which they agreed upon the suitability of Lenore for symphonic treatment and Klughardt told Raff that he had begun work on a Lenore. The older man doesn't seem to have warned him that he was already writing his own symphony. Had he known, Klughardt would have "backed off", he later wrote to Raff.

Klughardt's letters to Raff imply that it was a genuine coincidence, that he was appalled at the possibility that he would be charged with plagiarism once it became generally known and that he did not blame Raff for the situation. Raff's response is not known - he was probably relaxed about it, given their relative reputations. Klughardt's work was eventually published not as a symphony but was described as a "symphonic poem in four sections". It is nonetheless entirely symphonic in its conception and makes for an interesting comparison with with Raff's great work.

Raff: 3rd. movement march [the example is the end of trio section and the return of the march - 2:20]

Klughardt: 2nd. movement march [the example is the end of march movement leading into the slow movement - 1:47]

At just over 35 minutes long, Klughardt's is the shorter work and focuses entirely on the content of the poem, dispensing with the mood setting of Raff's first two movements. Some of the movements are joined by bridge passages and each features copious quotations from Bürger in the printed score. As for overt similarities, both works replace a scherzo with a march, though Klughardt places it second rather than third and it has no trio. The finales of both naturally centre on the galop to the graveyard, although they are quite different in character and Klughardt's vision has a Lisztian bombast missing from Raff's:

Raff: 4th. movement [the extract is from the end of the movement, up to the start of the apotheosis - 2:45]

Klughardt: 4th. movement [the extract is from towards the end of the movement - 1:46]

Unfortunately for Klughardt, his Lenore was completely eclipsed by the fame of Raff's masterpiece, just as its Waldleben predecessor had been.

© 1999-2017 Mark Thomas. All rights reserved.