Symphony No. 3 in B Minor, op. 50/ Variations op. 24/Rudorff

January 13, 2015


CPO 777 458-2

Rudorff Symphony #3 3rd movement

Ernst Rudorff (1840-1916) composed his third symphony late in his life in 1910 when writing a traditional classic symphony was no longer the norm as Strauss, Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky among others were the center of attention as Rudorff, who was once the center of music in Berlin, was now an isolated figure in obscurity. The third symphony was to be his last orchestral work as the remaining works were vocal and piano pieces. The catalog for material of Rudorff is small and this CPO release is a welcome addition. Hopefully they might decide to release his first two symphonies. As one fellow reviewer put it “you can expect the unexpected from Ernst…” as this work points out. Although I’ve spent nearly sixty years listening to classical music this is my first experience with this composer. This CD seems to be the only available recording although there is a recording of his second symphony available on the internet at

The first movement, an Allegro con brio, and  longest of the four immediately begins with a powerful melody bold and positive in its statement. It quickly builds to a conclusion of fff with the entire orchestra, horns prominent to a conclusion which quietly segues into a softer passage with woodwinds taking the center stage.  The entire orchestration is repeated with small variations.  It continues in the same pattern until a rousing conclusion.You’ll leave the movement with the feeling of listening to a very traditional work that could have been composed by Brahms. The second movement is a bit of a puzzle. It is titled In modo di marcia funebre  and in reality is far from a funeral march at all. It is gloomy, reminding me of the Rachmaninoff piece “The Rock,” but the woodwinds and rising strings in parts seem to break up the overall feeling of the movement. As Alan said expect the unexpected. The third movement, which is included as an audio clip, lives up to its title Un poco. (quasi Andantino) with the exception of one passage where the Andantino actually meant a little quicker. Overall it is a nice free moving uplifting movement a marked change from the first two movements. The final movement Allegro Giocosa begins with a loud bang waking you up to the tranqulity of the previous movement. The theme is impressive and well developed in a scant seven minutes. The total time of the symphony is under 35 minutes.

Written over 10 years earlier Rudorff’s “Variations,” op. 24 came about as a result of his fondness for Brahms variations of a theme from Haydn. This also new to me is a little gem of a work with a sprightly theme with 19 additional variations. It was written over a period of a year in 1874 to 1875 and was well received by the music society of Berlin including Brahms and his former teacher Carl Reinecke. While I’m not as impressed with it as the Brahms piece I’ve given it more than a listen for this review and will return to it on occasion.

Since I’ve no other recordings to compare this to it stands at the head of the class. I found the recording to be slightly hazed. It lacked the crystal clarity of other recordings. The bass produced a slight rattling in the windows to the point where I had to take it off of my flat readings and adjust the bass slightly. Listening to it on headphones was a pleasant experience. If you’ve amassed a collection of material I’d certainly add this to your collection.

Track Listing:


1…. Allegro con brio (12:31)

2…. Adagio in modo di marcia funebre (9:19)

3…. Un poco (quasi Andantino) (5:22)

4…. Allegro giocoso (7:29)


5…. (25:36)

One Response to “Symphony No. 3 in B Minor, op. 50/ Variations op. 24/Rudorff”

  1. Ilja Says:

    Good assessment. For some reason the few reviewers I’ve seen were rather negative about Rudorff’s work, but I found it a thorougly enjoyable, if admittedly anachronistic, piece of music.

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