PAUL VON KLENAU Symfoni nr. 9
22 June 2016
No wonder Paul von Klenau got sniffy about the musical life of his native Denmark. In his adopted Germany, Klenau had symphonies premiered by Hans Pfitzner and operas by Bruno Walter. He got close to Alban Berg and even aided that composer’s theoretical thinking. But as Niels Krabbe suggests in his booklet note, Klenau’s propagation of ‘key-determined 12‑tone music’ had a lot to do with that qualifying wording: an attempt on Klenau’s part to dissociate himself from ‘full’ 12‑toners like Berg and Webern (as in Jews) when the Nazis got going.
In the end Klenau returned to a tonal style; but, as his final symphony shows, tone rows still featured (notably in the third and fourth movements of the eightmovement symphony). The piece was composed in 1945 after Klenau’s return to Copenhagen but discovered in Vienna only as recently as 2001.
It’s an odd beast, combining Latin Requiem texts with ponderous statements by Klenau himself (translated into Latin, naturally). ‘Ponderous’ describes much of the music too. Spend too long in Germany and perhaps one feels obliged to initiate a fugue every 10 minutes; too often, Klenau’s fugue subjects are unwieldy and their treatment is aesthetically anaemic and technically limited. Transitions can be clunky but Klenau sometimes taps character (an example of both is around the 3'50" mark in the third movement). Ultimately, I’m inclined to agree with a Danish critic who cites the work’s total lack of charm. For Klenau that’s altogether fresher, try his cantata Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Kornetts Christoph Rilke, also on Dacapo (6 220532).
Bravo to these musicians for giving the piece every chance. Excellent playing, good if sometimes tired-sounding choral singing and excellent contributions from the inimitable Susanne Resmark (she has the first vocal entry, perhaps the disc’s highlight) and open-voiced tenor Michael Weinius. Good to have a recording—especially if it means we don’t have to have another performance.