KLEMPERER conducts Beethoven Symphonies Volume 3 (1957/60) - PASC371

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KLEMPERER conducts Beethoven Symphonies Volume 3 (1957/60) - PASC371

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BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9

Recorded in stereo 1957 & 1960
Total duration: 2hr 22:41

Aase Nordmo Løvberg soprano
Christa Ludwig
Waldemar Kmentt
Hans Hotter
The Philharmonia Chorus
The Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer

This set contains the following albums:

Klemperer's classic Beethoven Symphony Cycle: The final set, Nos 7-9

"The performance is as great as anything one is likely to hear in this world" - The Gramophone

As with the previous releases in this series, I came to the original EMI recordings full of admiration. Consistently well-made and of this highest technical quality for their era, one wonders what benefits might arise from applying XR remastering to them? And then I hear the results - and suddenly those 1950s recordings don't sound so good after all in comparison! This is therefore a project dedicated to extracting the finest sound possible from a very accomplished working base. It is something I believe is as valid for well-known, well-made recordings of the past as it is for the rarer and more troublesome recordings I also work with.

This presents Klemperer at his very best; he can now be heard in unprecedented sound quality, significantly improving on all previous issues.

Andrew Rose

  • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92

  • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93

  • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"
    Aase Nordmo Løvberg soprano
    Christa Ludwig 
    Waldemar Kmentt 
    Hans Hotter bass
    The Philharmonia Chorus

    The Philharmonia Orchestra
    Otto Klemperer conductor

    Recording dates:

    Symphony No. 7 Recorded 25 October, 19 November and 3 December, 1960 
    Symphony No. 8 Recorded 29-30 October 1957 
    Symphony No. 9 Recorded 31 October and 21-23 November 1957

    Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London

XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, November-December 2012
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Otto Klemperer

Total duration: 2hr 22:41

REVIEW Beethoven Symphony No. 9

Here is the much anticipated Klemperer Ninth. So many readers will have heard him conduct this in the concert hall or on the radio, or will at any rate know his way with Beethoven from other records, that it seems hardly necessary to describe the result in much detail - it is so obviously going to be a great Beethoven interpretation. And so, indeed, it is, with the Columbia technical staff all out, too, to make the result a success. 

But although we may know conductor and orchestra, there are two less predictable participants in this perfonnance, the soloists and the Philharmonia Chorus (who here make their debut on records). Soloists, bless their hearts (or, curse them, according to your mood) are seldom predictable. The best known of this quartet is Hans Hotter, a fine singer and artist indeed, but singing his opening recitative in a manner that will distress many sensitive ears. I f only, one feels, he had concentrated less on expressing the message of the words and more on singing each note well in tune, for he pushes some very sharp. Later, when he is mainly engaged in quartet work, his contribution is excellent. 

The rest are efficient without being remarkable, good enough, at any rate, not to let things down. The soprano, Aase Nordmo Løvberg, does her difficult job pretty well, though she tends to force the pace a bit at the start and her final top B is precise rather than particularly beautifulnothing like Schwarzkopf's in her performance with Furtwangler. Christa Ludwig fills her less exacting role well and Waldemar Kmentt is perfectly adequate, if not remarkable. Whether he has a ringing top B flat, by the way, one cannot tell, for the chorus covers him when he should come out with it. 

The Philharmonia Chorus is splendid. Bright tone, incisive attack, boundless energy and all the sustained power you could wish for- the sopranos' long f f top A at the end of "der ganzen Welt" section is as thrilling as the subsequent pp chords from the whole chorus ("muss ein lieber Vater wohnen"). 

I said that there was little need to describe Klemperer's interpretation, but that will not prevent me, like Saki's boring Stephen Thorle, from doing so! It is a performance which leaves you at the end with the feeling that every performance of the Ninth should give, that you have been through a spiritual experience of overwhelming greatness. It is of a quality that I think no other living conductor could give. And, different as Klemperer is from Toscanini, the two have certain things in common. The astonishing attention to detail, the gift ofilluminating the significance of some detail of orchestration that had escaped one's attention before: and (which I think Klemperer has in even greater degree) the achievement of an orchestral balance that gives lucidity of a kind rarely heard. (Those close-packed imitative entries in the first movement, bars 427 to 452, have surely never been so clearly heard.) 

The first movement is immensely powerful, but impressed me most of all by the way Klemperer seizes upon and conveys the essential atmosphere of every part of it, especially those pp passages of indescribable mystery. The Scherzo, with the Philharmonia playing the softest sections with astonishing delicacy, may seem a little steady and cautious in comparison with other conductors' performances, but it is, in fact, taken at about Beethoven's metronome mark. (Weingartner's speed was only slightly faster, but Toscanini's a good deal more so and gave, therefore, an entirely different feeling to the whole movement.) But Klemperer is a great respecter of the score and, by the way, is one of the few to observe the repeat of the second section of this movement. The slow movement, with a wonderfully rapt meaa voce from the strings, is surely all that one could wish for and a momentary lapse of ensemble between violas and woodwind at one point is insignificant beside the satisfying beauty of all the playing. 

This, then is a great experience to hear.

TH, The Gramophone, November 1958 (Review of first LP issue)

The Klemperer 9th in stereo at last -months after its scheduled release date and a full year after its mono issue. Readers may speculate as to why those who have been enterprising enough to equip them.selves into a stereo set-up should have been made to wait so long. However, I hope they have not given in and bought the mono records, for the stereo is undoubtedly much superior and it is, in fact, the sort of recording of this work I have been waiting for. 

I put on the finale straightway (on the principle that we all know E.M.I. can record an orchestra well enough) and immediately began to think that this sounded more like a real performance than any record of a choral work I had ever heard. All the adjectives with which everyone describes stereo came to mind (I'm sure you know them by now) and the advantage in the reproduction of this array of soloists, chorus and orchestra is great indeed. 

Direct comparison with the mono sound was difficult because the two are recorded at very different levels (the stereo lower) and one had to keep finding an equal volume before any true judgment of the impact of the chorus or the climaxes was possible. But my main impression was of the way the stereo sound laid out the forces before me in a wide arc, with the orchestra more consistently clear against the chorus than ever before. This spaciousness of the music is the greatest gain. 

Balance is very good, though sometimes different from that of the mono records. For a year I have been going about saying that nobody makes the trumpets ring out in the choral part of the 6/8 section as Klemperer does and how wonderful that is. Well, he doesn't in stereo! And what he really does one could only discover by hearing a live performance. Which just shows how much we are at the mercy of the technicians. 

The performance is as great as anything one is likely to hear in this world. If I criticised any points in my earlier review, they were of little account in relation to the whole---except, perhaps, Hotter's singing of his opening passage. (If only Columbia had D.G.G.'s Fischer-Dieskau). 

Readers should notice that this stereo recording takes four sides and that the Egmont side of the mono has disappeared. When I consider the quality of what we are given and compare it with the lack of quality in D.G.G.'s three-sided version, I can't really regret the Egmont loss. There is absolutely no question of which to choose between the two, for both immensity of performance and fineness of recording.

TH, The Gramophone, December 1959 (Review of first stereo LP issue)

MusicWeb International Review

These three recordings are of the highest order and ones I will return to with great pleasure

This is the third volume of the re-mastered “stereo set” of Klemperer’s Beethoven symphonies. Unlike the budget EMI Classics set (10 CDs - 4 04275 2) which nevertheless is a great bargain, these transfers come from pristine LPs. The sound, as I discussed when reviewing Volume 2 is notable for its superior bass. It sounds like top rate vinyl, which many older collectors may prefer. Unlike the Mahler set where EMI have re-mastered and, in the case of the Resurrection restored the correct length, the EMI re-mastering is from the 1990s. This is a missed opportunity although not all recent re-masters are an improvement. 

The stereo Seventh has, like the Eroica and the Fifth been generally, unfavourably compared to the mono recordings of 1955. The mono Seventh was last released separately (it is also in the 10 CD set, referred to above) and my colleague Christopher Howell had reservations. The first time I heard the 1955 CD in its stereo version (recorded in secret, along with the mono) in 1988 I was impressed but have since found it too slow. The first movement compares very unfavourably with Beecham on EMI and others. Five years later, the first movement is much slower than the norm but is powerful in its own way. The sound of the orchestra is excellent. One key point from Klemperer was that like many conductors of the old school (not Stokowski) was that he divided first and second violins. This gives an antiphonal effect that is vital in these works. The slow movement makes a terrific impact, one of the strongest I’ve heard. This power and conviction continues during the Presto and the finale although I did find the latter rather lumbering. I recalled Beecham’s comment about yaks dancing, these yaks seem fairly geriatric.
The sound of the orchestra is excellent and how well the Philharmonia play. I enjoyed this recording much more than I expected; on its own terms it’s quite a performance. In addition to the two EMI studio recordings there are at least four live recordings for those who cannot get enough of this work under Klemperer; for those enthusiasts may I direct you to the Naxos Music Library.
The Eighth is a fine “heavy-weight” recording, made concurrently with the RFH concerts. It certainly shows this work is not a little symphony. Many of the points I have made referring the Seventh apply here to a work which Klemperer clearly does not see as a throwback to the first two symphonies. Whilst there is some humour here, the performance does not have the joy others, such as Beecham, have brought to this lovely work. The wind playing, particularly during the Minuet is delightful and comes over very well in this re-mastering. All in all, well worth hearing if by no means the only version to have.
When we come to the Ninth we are dealing with one of the first stereo recordings of the Choral Symphony. It garnered excellent reviews on its release in 1959 and has always been held in high regard as has the live recording, made by the same forces on Testamenta week earlier. 

I had not heard this performance for a very long time but was very impressed right from the start. Klemperer really understands the first movement in a way few others do, taking us through every part with clear detail and purpose. The second movement “Scherzo” has been criticized for its steady tempo but it is very evolving and engaging and credit must be given to the Philharmonia and the producer Walter Legge. A few nights ago we listened to the BBC Proms and Valery Petrenko conducting the work where this movement in particular felt too hard-driven. The third movement “adagio” is simply superb with everything in place; the pace just right. Again we hear wonderful wind and string playing. I thought there was too big a pause between the end of the “adagio” and the “finale” but when we’re into the “presto” all is good again and the playing is just superb. There was some criticism, at the time, of Hans Hotter’s singing but to my ears the soloists and chorus are first rate. It’s a tribute to Walter Legge and the engineers as well as to Pristine that the sound totally belies its 55 years. There is a real sense of the special occasion, which I find very moving. There were comments, on its original release, of the virtues of stereo and this is reinforced in the final part. This is a Ninth that certainly deserves to be heard and enjoyed.
These three recordings, despite a few reservations, are of the highest order and ones I will return to with great pleasure, especially the Choral. Allow me, however, to look elsewhere for more spirited yaks in the Seventh.
David R Dunsmore