Julius Klengel (1859-1933) was a German cellist whose compositional output included solo works, caprices, chamber pieces and etudes for cello, thoroughly extending the instrument’s repertoire.
He was a member of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, becoming principal cellist at only 22. He remained in the orchestra for over fifty years and also taught at the Leipzig Conservatory. His students included some of the greatest cellists of the late-19th century to early 20th century, such as Guilhermina Suggia, Hideo Saito, Emanuel Feuermann, Paul Grümmer, William Pleeth, and Gregor Piatigorsky.
Hymnus was first performed in 1922 at the funeral of conductor Artur Nikishli. The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic performed the work in New York’s Carnegie Recital Hall during a tour to the US in 1976. A review of the performance on 16 November 1976 in the New York Times expressed mixed feelings, reading, ’All of the music turned out to be pretty trashy stuff, but it did serve the purpose of showing off the kind of sounds 12 cellos can produce in consort.
’There was lushness to spare, pizzicato fireworks aplenty, all sorts of tricky antiphonal effects and in general enough busy work to keep each player on his toes. Needless to say, the Berliners played stupendously, both individually and as a group, but after it was over, one had heard a sufficient amount of cello fun land games to last a long, long time.’