New Klemperer releases on EMI

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New Klemperer releases on EMI

I recently got the new box sets released by EMI of Klemperer's Beethoven and Bruckner recordings. In the past, I had resisted exploring Klemperer's oeuvre having formed the impression (which I now think is false) that his conducting was slow and ponderous. His Bruckner 4 moves at a fair speed and his pacing of the Beethoven symphonies does not seem ponderous at all compared to Thielemann and Barenboim, it just sounds magisterial. In the clarity of his articulation and balances he is comparable to Gunter Wand. I would be most interested to know what others feel about his conducting.  Anand

 

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

Interesting comment, Anand. The Klemperer Bruckner 4 is one of my favourites and years ago I would have said his Beethoven was too slow but now I am very taken with it. Whether it's because I'm now older, maybe,  but I think it's also my reaction to my dislike of period instrument performances at sometimes ludicrously fast speeds which rob the music of its power and gravitas. I still have great affection for the Schmidt-Issersedt VPO recordings, perhaps because that's the first complete set of Beethoven symphonies that I bought.

The clarity and balance of Klemperer's recordings is excellent and like Boult & Monteux he was one of the few conductors of the time to use antiphonal 1st & 2nd violins. He seems to get a unique sound from the Philharmonia. 

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

What I find fascinating about Klemperer is his modernist background. He started as a conductor of avant-garde music: Schönberg, Hindemith... I guess he more than once had to dodge tomatoes and silence hecklers.
It's nice that his entry in the EMI "Greatest conductors" series focuses on this often neglected part of K.'s repertoire, instead of chosing some of the familiar warhorses.

You can still taste his modernist method of music-making in his later, more traditionalist repertoire. That's always a good thing in, say, Beethoven: a conductor who realizes music history didn't end on new year's eve, 1899 - and emphazizes the modern, revolutionary aspects of B.'s style.

Take a conductor like Haitink, who hardly ever conducted modern music, and who more than once expressed his dislike of it. I find his Beethoven, Mahler and Bruckner infinitely less interesting than Klemperer's, since he approaches the music from the opposite side: the 19th century and choses to emphasize the traditional elements in these composers' pieces.

You mentioned Chailly already - to me he's one of Klemperer's spiritual successors. The contrast between his and Haitink's Mahler (with the same orchestra, the CGO) couldn't be bigger - and I very much prefer Chailly's.

Not everything that Klemperer touched turned into gold, but his best recordings are truly amazing, exactly because of this personal approach he applied to every piece he conducted.

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

Thanks for that link 50m.  I don't have that Amsterdam performance.  I keep hoping that the whole cycle he gave in Amsterdam at that time will appear. I will listen tonight (assuming internet is running well). My favourite amongst the many Klemperer 9ths I do have is the Cologne Radio one from 1955. (The CD has a rehearsal with the choir and Klemperer sings the bass solo!  The 1964 Royal Albert Hall performance (New Philharmonia) on DVD  is also superb - both of them more vital than the studio recording.

Chris

 

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

Great conductor beyond any doubt. However, a bit stiff in some works (Mendelssohn, Schumann, Bach), less flexible (Mahler) and too heavy (Mozart who sounds like he drags his heel, of course, in a magnificent, albeit pompous way).

However, some of his recordings are reference ones, particularly in Beethoven.

Parla

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

One could say he lacked the frivolity and elegance needed to conduct Mozart or Mendelssohn succesfully. And his Bach, as monumental as it may be, is overtaken by the historical correct performances of today and condemned to a place in the "anachronistic curiosities" department, alas.

However, I don't agree with your verdict on his Mahler. After all, he was Mahler's assistant, and together with Walter and Mengelberg he's the best qualified conductor to conduct Mahler in a truly "authentic" way, that is, using first-hand knowledge. Mahler even heard the young Klemperer conducting his 2nd (in Berlin, 1905!)

Of course it doesn't always work that way and the student's style isn't always a carbon copy of the master's. If you take Mahler's 4th, Mengelberg's, Walter's and Klemperer's versions couldn't be more different, stylistically.

Still I think of Klemperer as a great Mahler conductor, even if I value his Bruckner even higher. His 2nd and "Lied" are usually ranked among the best in the catalogue.

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

I said for Klemperer's Mahler that it is "less flexible", not inferior or mediocre. I can, somehow, always feel a kind of stiffness, which, however, does not deprive him from being even brilliant at times.

I can fully subscribe to his Second and Das Lied von der Erde as well.

Parla

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

I listened for the first time last night to Klemperer's EMI recording of Mahler's, so called slightly odd, seventh symphony. It was a revelation,and me, so I thought not a great Mahler fan.The music as conducted by Klemperer completely overwhelmed me. That the sound from the Kingsway Hall was fantastic,one of EMI's best,had little bearing on the evenings enjoyment.It was the conducting of Klemperer (with a little help from Mahler) that achieved that.

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

Much agreement to be found here. I agree with Parla: flexible and Klemperer don't belong in the same sentence! Obstinate, indominable are words that come more to mind, and ensure that feeling that from the first bar he (and we) know where he's going. And yet, his Mahler is, for me superb. I think 50m is absolutely right in drawing attention to Klemperer's 'modernist' approach.  Unlike Haitink or Walter, Klemperer's Mahler looks forward to Berg and beyond. To my ears at least it is more modern sounding even that Pierre Boulez's.

And History Man, I completely second your comments on Klemperer's Mahler 7th. Both with Mahler and Bruckner (the 6th) it is often in the works most difficult to bring off where Klemperer triumphs above all (or most) others. Also with Brahms 3rd, the most elusive of his symphonies.

Even when his interpretations are only partially successful, I often have the feeling of an imperfect performance, a sketch perhaps, of a greater work than I had previously realised, if that makes any sense! It applies especially to some of his later recordings.

Thanks 50m for the recommendation of the Concertgebouw Beethoven 9th.  I've downloaded it. Very impressive, along with my favourite Cologne performance, and the fastest of all the six I have!

Chris

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: I sampled bits of Klemperer's

What a performance indeed 50m! It is indeed slow but, as you suggest, Klemperer's involvement with the first performance must have given him insight into what Mahler wanted. Alma Mahler wrote "Several youthful musicians, Alban Berg, Bodanzky, Heussler, Klemperer, they all helped [Mahler] revise the orchestration and to copy the parts". Klemperer himself however insisted that though he would gladly have helped, "the composer would have none of it and did it all himself." In any event he was heavily involved in that first performance and the only one of them to have recorded it! 

Both the fourth and the ninth are superb performances too! Not so slow as the 7th!

I listened again properly to the Amsterdam 9th yestersay. Superb, much more 'driven' than any of the other Klemperer performances I know.  The first movement especially. Unvelievably powerful. Thanks again.  Now I must try the Weingartner.

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

I think we are all guilty at times of hearing performances with pre-conditioned ears.Klemperer was an old fashioned so and so from a different age.That's that then, we are all more enlightened these days.Bring on the HIP.
It is good to read threads like this one.It's made me,for one, stop and think. The more I listen to Klemperer the higher I rate him.

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