New Klemperer releases on EMI

45 posts / 0 new
Last post
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

33lp, Klemperer's Beethoven is what me made love classical music in the first place. My dad (not a classical music fan) had this box of records with B. complete symphonies, and curious little me started playing them on his grandma's old record player. And the rest is history. I still have the records, but they got played so often on bad equipment (old needles, a child's clumsy handling...) that I fear there's only gravel in the grooves anymore.

One could say that Klemperer is responsible for me eventually becoming a professional musician. Something I'd love to thank the grand Old Man for, posthumously.

Also, re: slow tempi. It's the classic Klemperer prejudice, yes. And the 6th is slow indeed, very slow. But like you said, his Bruckner 4th is speedy (another LP I grew up with - I remember wondering that all that music fitted so nicely on one single record...)
So K. doesn't really fit the "old conductor can't swing his arm fast enough anymore" cliché. That's a good thing, because we can focus more on the extraordinary depth of his recorded legacy. Bruckner's 5th and 6th, Mahler's 2nd and Das Lied, Beethoven, Brahms...

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

I have not worked out yet how to quote part of a post on this forum.If I had 50milliarden your third paragraph would be quoted.....perfectly put.
I get sick and tired of critics coming out with the same old chestnuts - Klomperer, Suisse Romande is a lousy orchestra,etc etc.It is just lazy journalism.
The three M's Maazel,Mehta,and Muti were praised here a day or two ago. They could not clean old Otto's boots!

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

Thanks for your replies. I find Zinman's Beethoven cycle to be almost a caricature. Gardiner too throws expression overboard simply to try to adhere to Beethoven's metronome marks. Chailly is remarkable in that he adheres to Beethoven's metronome marks without too much loss of expression. 

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

50m:

Yes I too have loved Klemperer's recordings since my early collecting days, more than 50 years ago. (My goodness, yes, it is that many!). Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner all came my way through his recordings.

This notion of Klemperer's slowness has some truth but more especially with his later performances. The late recording (from a RFH, London) Concert is very slow (around 100') compared with his Philharmonia recording (79'), which in turn is noticeably slower than the old Concertgebouw recording (live, 71') issued by Decca. The extraordinary thing though, is how much more similarity there seems to be between these performances than differences. The same with his two recordings of Missa solemnis.

Perhaps we have become too obsessed with the metronome. In this regard I found the following in Peter Heyworth's Klemperer biography.  He reports comments from Walter Jellinek (Walter Legge's assistant) concerning Klemperer's recording of the St. Matthew Passion:

"The first sessions had taken place in a resonant neo-gothic church, but because of a damp atmosphere, had had to be transferred to the EMI studios in Abbey Road, the acoustics of which proved too dry for a large choral work. Finally the recording was made in the Kingsway Hall, where the acoustics lay midway between these two extremes. Klemperer instinctively adjusted his tempi to these varying conditions. The opening chorus laster fourteen minutes in the church, ten-and-a-half minutes in the studio and twelve-and-a-half minutes in the hall."

Astonishing differences and fascinating in itself. But consider this: I'm pretty sure that if EMI had recorded in the church they would have brought their microphones in closer to compensate for any excess reverberation.  In Abbey Road, they surely would have done the opposite - so the recorded result would have sounded much less different to the actual sound.  And yet we'd still have had those tempo differences.  Just as well they recorded in Kingway Hall!

Another aspect of Klemperer's conducting that fascinates me concerns the sound he obtained whatever orchestra he was conducting. One thing I have particularly noticed is the way he dealt with differences between pp and ff; as much by changing the quality of the sound as by changing the volume. He used a much narrower actual violume range than is favoured today, where we take a much more literal, 'volume only' related, view of dynamic markings.

With regard to both tempo and dynamics most of today's maestros could learn a thing or too from 'Dr' Klemperer!

Chris

PS: I have a fascinating Archipel CD of Klemperer with the Concertgebouw conducting Janacek's Sinfonietta, Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht and Bartok's viola concerto (with Primrose, in 1951, only one year after the first performance).

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: New Klemperer releases on EMI

Fascinating stuff, Chris.
One further thing to notice in terms of speed is that Klemperer's studio recordings are usually slower than his live-performances.

A good example of the latter is his 1956 live version of Beethoven's IX at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. I assume you know this recording already? It's a free download at archive.org:

http://archive.org/details/beethoven9

To me it has an amazing vitality, a raw energy that makes it more exciting than his studio version for EMI. The 50's mono recording has great sound for its period. Also check out the first comment for a laugh :)

As we speak, I'm listening to another ninth, the legendary 1935 Weingartner:

http://archive.org/details/BeethovenSymphonyNo.9choral

Fascinating to hear that an interpretation that's firmly rooted in the 19th century sounds so very modern, apart from some occasional tempo fluctuations that we're not used to anymore.
Archive.org has turned into a fine source for historic recordings. Maybe the subject is more suited for a new thread, but does anyone know of other "must haves" from that site?

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

I sampled bits of Klemperer's

I sampled bits of Klemperer's Mahler 7 at youtube and - holy moley - what a performance. Eccentric? Yes. Slow? VERY slow. But let's not forget that Klemperer assisted Mahler with the first ever performance of the work, in Prague, 1909. So maybe those tempi are more authentic than one would think?

I found that I don't have Klemperer's 9th either, so I ordered his complete Mahler recordings (6 cd's in a new 2011 box, apart from the already mentioned 2nd, 7th, 9th and Das Lied, there's the Elizabeth Schwarzkopf 4th too.)
At only 15 euros, it beats *cough* torrenting *cough*.

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

Pages

Log in or register to post comments
© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2014