Pinned post since May 16 (please keep checking in for additions)

It’s arrived…

… and I have started listening (Volume 2, due October, will gather Klemperer’s Opera – Fidelio/Mozart/Flying Dutchman – and Sacred Work – B-minor Mass/Matthew Passion/Missa solemnis/German Requiem/Messiah – recordings, and others) opening for me here, Volume One, with his superb stereo (there’s a mono) Beethoven Leonore No.1 Overture. The remastering is first-class, sounds great (basses left, antiphonal violins clearly delineated; wide dynamic range; tangible orchestra: one could be present in Kingsway Hall eavesdropping on the sessions), weighty and unvarnished performance, ditto the other Fidelio-related Overtures, Leonore No.3 especially compelling … original artwork, too, Columbia SAX 2542, released 1964:

So, I’ll do for Klemperer what I am doing for Ansermet, also a pinned post, and add comments in instalments…

Meanwhile I have played Haydn 100/102, which was maybe my first Haydn LP (bought in a sale, I think), and also my intro to those two Symphonies courtesy of my father’s radiogram, me sitting on the floor, close to the action, although it may have had a headphone socket. All these years later, I remain very taken with these accounts. New to me is Mozart’s expansive K361 thirteen-wind Serenade, with such as Sidney Sutcliffe, Bernard Walton, Gwydion Brooke, Alan Civil and Nicholas Busch in the ensemble, to which Klemperer adds a double bass (rightly so) and it’s a beautifully mottled performance overall (prominent contrabassoon), the listener placed as a non-playing member of the group, to advantage; Abbey Road, 1963.

A change of scale, for Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Klemperer’s being one the best recordings of it, with Christa Ludwig & Fritz Wunderlich, the only drawback being the subdued horses (not even a canter) during the fourth movement; otherwise wonderful in all particulars.

By the way, not all of Klemperer’s earliest recordings – mid-20s to early-30s – are included here because they are not part of Warner’s ownership, but Archiphon’s five-CD set of them remains available:–otto-klemperer-the-complete-78rpm-recordings-berlin-1924-1932

To be continued…

May 16: Just enjoyed a couple more Haydn Symphonies, 88 (especially well-judged in the Minuet & the Finale) & 104 (stately and conveying the gravitas needed for Haydn’s final Symphony); 1964, Abbey Road. And Mozart 31 & 34 are just as articulate and shapely, plenty of woodwind detail, not least oboe dissonances in 34’s final movement; 1963, Kingsway Hall:

May 17: Klemperer’s conducting of Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (not quite complete here) can be a little plodding yet also enchanted, and you do get Heather Harper and Janet Baker singing. SAX 2393, 1960, Abbey Road:

May 18 & 19: Klemperer curiosities: among his final recordings (1968-70; his dates 1885-1973) were Beethoven Seven (the third version of it in this box), Bruckner Eight and Mahler Seven. The word ‘slow’ doesn’t cut it for these tapings; laboured, pedestrian and lethargic are rather more suited; yet each one is not without interest. The Beethoven perhaps falters with a sombre second-movement Allegretto, and the Bruckner (at eighty-five minutes it might have been accommodated on one disc rather than two) is certainly rugged, if tentative at times, with a plodding Scherzo but a compelling slow movement (which Klemperer recorded alone in 1924 with Staatskapelle Berlin for Polydor, so not included by Warner, presumably using Franz Schalk’s edition, superseded by Haas then Nowak, Klemperer now using the latter) but the big problems are Klemperer’s cuts in the Finale, more than two-hundred bars excised, the first from 9:17. The corker though is the one-hundred-minute Mahler Seven (average performance time, circa seventy-five/eighty), a slow-mo rendition, fascinating if the music is already well-known, the New Philharmonia hanging on, if exposed: SLS 872, superb sound from Christopher Parker, 1970, Kingsway Hall, for what must have been very hard-working and perplexing sessions

Postscript, here’s a concert performance of Beethoven Seven from 1970, two years after the recording:

May 19: Light relief on CD 49, a couple of Johann Strauss II Waltzes. the Fledermaus overture, Klemperer’s own endearing Merry Waltz (echt-Viennese with a circus-like middle section) and some satirical Weill, music from The Threepenny Opera, Klemperer does ‘Mack the Knife’. All very stylish. 1961, Kingsway Hall, SAX 2460: Another Strauss, Richard, if not a member of the Austrian family, is represented by, among other things, on CD 50, a rapt and poignant Metamorphosen (for twenty-three solo strings).

May 20: Whatever debacle Klemperer’s Bruckner Eight might be, his account of the (unfinished) Ninth, also 1970, if predating it, is magnificent, and entirely new to me, an emotional rollercoaster captured in Kingsway Hall, superbly remastered, although a few edits remain audible. The music-making is compelling, and those antiphonal violins swirl, tremolo and pizzicato either side of, and across, the conductor illuminatingly and explicitly. There are stories about the very elderly Klemperer falling asleep while conducting during sessions, or other maestros standing behind him to keep things on the road – Giulini rumoured to be so-doing when Bach’s B-minor Mass was taped – whether true or not, I’d love to think that this Bruckner 9 is all Klemperer’s work, culminating in a stark Adagio that is chilling and disturbing … last orders.

Here is Klemperer conducting Bruckner 9 with the New York Philharmonic in 1934, October 14, from a Philharmonic-issued set of historical recordings (timings – if mere statistics – NY, 55 minutes; London, 66):

May 31: Disc 73 – Klemperer’s February 1966 New Philharmonia version of Franck’s Symphony in D-minor (recorded at Abbey Road) is gloriously trenchant, sweeping and exultant, and is now coupled with the deliberate, sometimes-messy, 1967 Petrushka (using Stravinsky’s 1947 revised score) that appeared first and very belatedly on the Testament label; strictly for Klemperer nutters!

May 31: CD 58 is excellent stereo Schubert, a Fifth Symphony with charm and gravitas – although a shame to lose the first-movement repeat, which is observed in the ‘Unfinished’, a gripping account of that -, and also the “PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED (FIRST AND ONLY TAKE)” of Symphony 4’s first movement, a promising start (lots of woodwind detail) if to be no more than that. All Walter Legge-produced at Kingsway Hall.

June 1: CD 85 includes Schumann’s ‘Rhenish’ Symphony (recorded 1969) and can be regarded as gloriously expansive or laboriously flawed.

June 6: CDs 93 & 94 are devoted to Klemperer’s own music in recordings that include “previously unreleased” and “play through(s)”, including Symphonies 2, 3 & 4, and other works for orchestra, all conducted by the composer, suggesting a mix of Hindemith and Mahler, and a dry wit, all very interesting, and String Quartet No.3, previously released on Archiphon, is very likeable. (The Adagio of Symphony 4 mirrors that of No.2.) The composer-approved recordings of Symphony 2 & String Quartet 7 (the latter led by Emanuel Hurwitz) can be found on CD 88, on LP it was HMV ASD 2575; And there is also the afore-mentioned Merry Waltz, a gem.

Warner Classics 5419725704 (95 CDs) is released on June 2.

Heather Harper (soprano)
Aase Nordmo Lovberg (soprano)
Birgit Nilsson (soprano)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano)
Christa Ludwig (mezzo-soprano)
Hilde Rossl-Majdan (mezzo-soprano)
Waldemar Kmentt (tenor)
Fritz Wunderlich (tenor)
Hans Hotter (bass-baritone)
Daniel Barenboim (piano)
Annie Fischer (piano)
Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
David Oistrakh (violin)
Gareth Morris (flute)
Dennis Brain (horn)
Alan Civil (horn)
George Malcolm (harpsichord)
Philharmonia String Quartet
New Philharmonia Wind Ensemble
London Wind Quintet & Ensemble
Philharmonia Chorus
John Alldis Choir
Philharmonia Orchestra
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Francaise
Staatskapelle Berlin [early recordings]
Orchester der Staatsoper Berlin [early]