Julius Klengel

Julius Klengel


• 1859 1933


Julius Klengel, one of the most important German cellists and teachers of the Romantic age and beyond, was born in the musically active city of Leipzig. His family had a tradition that all its children, going back for many generations, learned to play musical instruments, and many of his relatives had careers as professional musicians.

An advantage of such a family is that all sorts of chamber music combinations were available within it, and that teachers were near at hand. Klengel's father, a lawyer who was a friend of the Mendelssohn family, gave Julius his first musical instruction. Once it became clear that the boy favored the cello, he was enrolled as a pupil of Emil Hegar, principal cellist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Klengel became a member of that orchestra at the age of 15, and principal cellist at 22. In the same year, 1881, Klengel was appointed "Royal Professor" of cello at the Leipzig Conservatory.

Klengel had a successful touring career, and was particularly in demand in Russia. He played the first performance in Russia of the Haydn D Major Concerto in 1887. These were not just solo performances. He had a habit of touring with major chamber ensembles to Russia. These ensembles included the Brodsky Quartet. He also played with established Russian ensembles like the St. Petersburg Quartet, which also included the great violin teacher Leopold Auer.

He was considered a master of chamber music. His colleagues said that Klengel knew, from memory, every part in every piece of chamber music in the standard repertoire. It was also said that whatever piece his students wanted to play, he could accompany immediately at the piano, from memory.

His tone by all accounts was strong, penetrating, and clear; some commentators found that it was not especially beautiful, but others disagree. His renditions were highly musical, making their effects more by subtleties of accentuation and phrasing than by his strong tone quality.

He wrote many compositions for the cello, though none of them is in the standard performing repertoire any more. In 1924, celebrating Klengel's 50th year with the orchestra, it played his double concerto, including Klengel as one of the soloists, with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting. Many of his teaching works, however, are still in use.

He is primarily remembered as a teacher. He is credited with reviving Bach's six Cello Suites, which he taught to all his students. He taught some of the finest cellists of the twentieth century, including Feuermann, Kurtz, and Piatigorsky.