KLEMPERER in Philadelphia, Vol. 2: Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann (1962) - PASC467

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KLEMPERER in Philadelphia, Vol. 2: Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann (1962) - PASC467

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Overview

    MOZART Symphony No. 41 'Jupiter'
    BEETHOVEN
    Symphony No. 7
    BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 'Pastoral'
    SCHUMANN
     Symphony No. 4 
    Live stereo recordings, 1962
    Total duration: 2hr 34:51

    Otto Klemperer, conductor
    The Philadelphia Orchestra

     

    This set contains the following albums:

    Klemperer in Philadelphia, 1962 - second superb volume of live recordings

    "A supreme exposition of high German romanticism without the interpretive distortions which sometimes accompany it. Alone worth the price of the set" - MusicWeb International


    As with Volume One (PASC465), sound quality is excellent throughout this second volume. I've tamed a slightly over-wide stereo image and used a light convolution reverberation derived from one of the world's foremost concert halls to bring a little extra realism to a slightly dry acoustic, whilst XR remastering has helped bring out the full warmth of the Philadlephia Orchestra's sound.

  • Andrew Rose


    • MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C major, K.551 'Jupiter'
      Concert of 3 November 1962

    • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
      Concert of 3 November 1962

    • BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, 'Pastoral'
      Concert of 19 October 1962
       
    • SCHUMANN Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120
      Concert of 27 October 1962



      The Philadelphia Orchestra
      Otto Klemperer
      , conductor 

      Recorded live at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia


    "Rediscovered recordings recall the legacy of Otto Klemperer"
     The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 March 2016 (excerpts)


    He stood before the Philadelphia Orchestra with the face of an anguished god, saying little with his partially paralyzed mouth, much through his hands, and more through his eyes — behind thick, sometimes askew glasses.


    In 1962, Otto Klemperer, one of the great conductors of the 20th century, returned to the Philadelphia Orchestra after an absence of more than 25 years, having suffered a brain tumor, a stroke, severe bipolar disorder, and third-degree bums from setting himself on fire by smoking in bed.


    “His beat was slurred. Definitely slurred,” recalls cellist Marcel Farago, 92, who retired from the orchestra in 1990. “But his mind was there. The conducting was there. He knew the pieces, he knew what he wanted, and he got it. Schumann [Symphony No. 4] was a cinch. Nothing to it.”


    The intensity heard on a newly published live recording of the performance is terrifying. Recordings of Klemperer in Philadelphia are being issued on disc and in downloads by Pristine Classical, a European boutique label that somehow located stereo tapes and remastered them with sound quality that easily eclipses previous issues of the same performances. Only now do we have an accurate picture of a conductor who, at 77, had his share of off days but, however infirm he appeared here, was still in the Indian summer of his career.


    “Generally, the tempi were very slow,” says violinist Herbert Light, 79, who played those concerts. The sunny spirits of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”) are clouded by Klemperer’s slow Philadelphia tempos, the first movement coming in at 14:10 — a minute longer than his already slow studio recording. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) came with such a strong interpretive concept that some of his Philadelphia timings match his famous 1959 recording down to the second.


    Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 seems to unfold in slow motion under Klemperer. With astonishing re-creative imagination, he finds deep pockets of emotional content, whether or not Bach intended them.


    Even in Beethoven’s oft-heard Symphony No. 7, one hears a performance that seems to embody the decades of wartime tragedy the rest of the world was trying to forget. The single best performance is Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. Every so often in Klemperer’s live recordings, he sounds demonically possessed. This is one of those. Yannick Nézet-Séguin brought in the Schumann symphony with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe at 28:27, but Klemperer is right behind him at 28:38. He solves the problematically quiet ending of Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 elegantly — though you have to hear it to understand how he did it.


    In the Philadelphia recordings — previously published under Europe’s more liberal copyright laws — Pristine’s high-quality stereo shows how the orchestra’s sound created a polished counterbalance to Klemperer’s craggy, truth-telling qualities and sustained the conductor’s tempos with a security not always heard elsewhere.


    David Patrick Stearns - read the full article at Philly.com here


    Reviews: MusicWeb International & Fanfare

    Essential for admirers of this extraordinary musician and should appeal to anyone with an interest in the art of orchestral interpretation

  • Review of Volumes 1 & 2:

  • In late 1934, Leopold Stokowski announced his resignation as the long-time principal conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Otto Klemperer, a refugee from Nazi Germany, was engaged to conduct a season of concerts with the orchestra in January and February of the following year. The Bruckner and Mahler performances which he included in his Philadelphia concerts were moderately successful, but received greater audience and critical acclaim when he and the orchestra performed them in New York. Based on this success, Klemperer hoped he would be appointed Stokowski's successor. However, the latter conductor reconciled with the orchestra's board and the vacancy lapsed. When Stokowski resigned a second time in late 1935, the board appointed Eugene Ormandy to the position and Klemperer's hopes were permanently dashed.

    In late autumn 1962, the conductor was reunited with the orchestra when he gave a series of concerts with them in Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Baltimore. The Philadelphia concerts were recorded in stereo and have now been restored by Pristine Classics and reissued in these two double-albums. The audiences were, at the very least, respectful and sometimes responded with an ovation. The critics, however, were reserved, complaining of slow tempos and a tendency to scrutinise every phrase. Winthrop Sargeant in the New Yorker put the critics' concerns into perspective. Audiences, he believed, were unaccustomed to Klemperer's style because of Toscanini's long dominance of the American orchestral scene. Klemperer's performances had 'unmistakeable grandeur' and were 'remarkable for their clarity of detail'.

    (Sourced and adapted from Peter Heyworth’s Otto Klemperer – His Life and Times, CUP, 1996.)

    Although more than half a century old, these performances are not period pieces. Klemperer was a modernist who championed the music of the twentieth century. Unlike many of his near-contemporaries, he did not use expressive devices like fluctuating tempos and significant instrumental ‘re-touchings’. He preferred steady tempos. The orchestral sound was big but detailed. Mannerisms were few. Liberties were very occasionally taken, mainly in the form of cuts. Surface beauty and superficial excitement alike were shunned. He was an intellectual - his command of structure was unsurpassed - but he was not interested in ‘scholarship’. His performances had honesty, integrity and power.

    Pristine's sound is warm, rich and deep and, in general, well balanced. Pristine states that it used the acoustic of a fine venue to add warmth to the somewhat dry sound on the tapes. The result reproduces the famous sheen of the orchestra very well, although I would not call it a typical Klemperer sound. That was drier, grittier and more detailed — see my comments below on the recording of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Still, these magisterial performances can be enjoyed in this sumptuous sound.

    There is little in these sets which will startle those who know their Klemperer. The performances are basically iterations of the conductor's well known way with this music — all of which he had recorded for EMI a few years earlier.

    In the case of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 I was initially nonplussed by the disparities in the movement timings between this performance and the conductor's EMI studio version of two years earlier. EMI's track 2 (containing the second movement Adagio) runs for 4:35 whereas Pristine's track 2 (also supposedly the Adagio) lasts 15:21. Yet the timings of the two performances of the whole concerto are within a minute or so of each other. What has happened is this: Pristine's track 2 contains not only the Adagio, but the third movement Allegro and part of the fourth movement Menuetto. The next bit of the Menuetto is found in track 3, and wrongly labelled Allegro, leaving only the last three minutes of the Menuetto to sit where it belongs - in track 4. Presumably, Pristine will correct these matters when the chance arises.

    Bach's scoring for this work includes a violino piccolo (a small violin) and a harpsichord. I doubt whether Klemperer used the former in either of these recordings. He certainly used a harpsichordist (George Malcolm) in London, but I'm not at all certain he had one in Philadelphia. The balance in Philadelphia strongly favours the horns and the largish string section; the woodwinds tend to struggle. So perhaps the harpsichord was there. The horns, incidentally, are wonderfully vital and poised. The EMI recording seems to use a smaller string section and has a clearer, studio-based sound, so it feels a little more 'authentic'. The Philadelphia performance is warm with tempi expansive but steady and never metronomic. This is the one truly controversial performance in the two sets. 'Authenticists' will reject it but, even today, there are those who can revel in this more 'romantic' Bach than the one we have become used to.

    Brahms, it has been said, is ‘the patron saint of those who have grown old without achieving heart's desire’ and that is plain in this Symphony No. 3. One or two of Klemperer's eminent colleagues couldn't come to terms with this symphony, but he did, and so did Bruno Walter, perhaps because of their life experiences. I compared this performance with readings by Klemperer on EMI stereo and Walter on Sony stereo. All three capture the ‘Autumnal’ yet changing moods of the symphony. Walter omits the first movement repeat without doing too much damage to the structure — he was averse to repeats — and Klemperer includes it in both performances. Walter’s more moulded approach uses basic tempos in the first three movements which are similar to Klemperer’s steadier ones on EMI, except in the Finale where Walter is brisker. Klemperer is a shade more expansive in Philadelphia than London … by about a minute and a half. Walter’s is one of the finest of his stereo recordings in terms of both performance and sound. Both the Klemperer recordings are likewise authoritative.

    No conductor ever surpassed Klemperer's performances of the Egmont Overture. His approach was to use a steady tempo and build slowly to a great climax at the end. Walter, who recorded Leonore No. 3 masterfully in Vienna, sadly misjudged Egmont in his Sony recording, slowing down mid-way, then having to speed up unconvincingly later on. A special mention for Klemperer's piccolo player in Philadelphia who rightly dominates the orchestra at the end.

    Some years ago on television, a conductor was seen rehearsing the Beethoven Eroica with his period instrument orchestra. He advised the players that the first movement was "like galloping horses". Those viewers who recalled that the French revolution inspired this symphony might have found that his description - and performance – did not evoke the heroic spirit of that event. They might prefer an alternative description - "massive forces in motion" – which is what Klemperer’s performances gave us. I’ve heard four of them: the Philharmonia Orchestra EMI studio productions of 1955 (mono) and 1959 (stereo), the Royal Danish Orchestra live recording of 1957 on Testament (mono) and this one with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

    The Danish performance is the first choice of some listeners. It has great intensity, emphasised by the close and dryish recording, but lacks Klemperer’s characteristic spaciousness. The Funeral March is quicker than in four other famous performances I compared it with and to an extent misses its full stature. I’d guess the whole performance was a product of a manic phase of the conductor’s well-known bi-polar condition. The nearest to it in timing is the admired 1955 performance which has better sound and is better played. The superb horns are led by Dennis Brain in the third movement trio and the coda of the last movement. Its Funeral March is finer, but does not have the stature of the 1959 remake or this Philadelphia performance. Both of these offer a notably deeper and grander Funeral March.

    The Philadelphia performance resembles the 1959 recording and has almost identical timings in all movements. The first movement is on the largest scale and the important thing is that it coheres, the final note envisaged, as it were, from the first. Everything leads to a great climax at the end of the movement where the trumpets, while present, do not dominate to the exclusion of other instruments. The slow movement Funeral March is immensely moving, although every performance of this piece has to yield to Toscanini's live 1939 version with the NBC Symphony Orchestra — which has almost the same timing – 16:25. This has unsurpassed tragic grandeur, accompanied by remarkable internal clarity which could only have been achieved by absolute precision; helped by the typically dry acoustic. The Philadelphia third movement is a touch stately, but of a piece with the overall conception. In the Finale, Klemperer scores — as Walter does on Sony — by getting the movement off to an arresting start without using Toscanini's whiplash attack. As this movement progresses, do I detect a little more relaxation in the quieter passages than Klemperer permits in his studio recordings? A gesture, perhaps, to a great romantic orchestra? A touch of flexibility from the podium helps the horns articulate their important part in an exciting coda whereas Toscanini’s horns sound a little rushed.

    I compared this Mozart Symphony No. 41, Jupiter recording with Klemperer's two studio recordings (EMI, 1954 and 1962), Böhm (DG 1962) and Walter (US Columbia 1945, available in Pristine's 'Bruno Walter Rarities' 2015).

    Klemperer's Philadelphia performance gives the work the stature of a romantic symphony, an approach which I think it can withstand. At first glance, its physical proportions seem daunting: it runs for 36:39 whereas all the other performances mentioned — including the conductor's studio recordings — run for less than half an hour. The difference is mostly explained by the fact that the Philadelphia performance is the only one that includes the repeats in both the outer movements. This adds about six minutes overall. The conductor's dramatic 1954 studio performance finds room for a repeat in the last movement, but not in the first. His 1962 studio version, and Böhm's and Walter's, omit the repeats in both movements.

    It is in the first two movements that the Philadelphia reading differs significantly from most of the others. In Philadelphia, these movements are broadly paced but lack nothing in intensity. Böhm is closest to the classical ideal, dispatching both these movements swiftly in his straightforward, unmannered style. Walter is not far behind him, although his performance is more moulded, as you would expect. Klemperer in 1954 is close to Walter in overall timing, but steady in pulse and more intense, giving a heroic feel to his performance. Klemperer in his 1962 studio performance slows down by about a minute in both the movements, giving a feeling of - as the 'Gramophone' put it at the time - 'classical grace'.

    If the Philadelphia audience in 1962 thought that Klemperer would drag his feet in the last two movements, they were about to be surprised. His third movement is well up to speed and actually faster than Böhm's. His speed for the Finale is broadly comparable with the other performances, allowing for his inclusion of the repeat, and, with the advantage of his unsurpassed intensity, the effect is something of a whirlwind. A satisfying conclusion.
     
    Klemperer made four EMI studio recordings of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, if you count his 1955 mono and stereo recordings as separate productions - which they were. I've chosen the third of these - his 1960 stereo recording - as a basis for comparison. For my other comparison, I wanted a complete contrast with Klemperer’s approach - in good sound. To be slightly venturesome, I selected Carlos Kleiber’s live recording with the Bavarian State Orchestra on Orfeo, released in 1982, rather than his more famous DG studio recording from the 1970s.

    Kleiber's performance is conceived in the classical, Toscanini style, with swift tempos and incisive rhythms but, with fewer repeats and even faster speeds than his DG recording, it understates a significant aspect of the score: its rustic, lyrical qualities. Bruno Walter's stereo performance on Sony captured this aspect to perfection in the first three movements, but his Finale was less satisfying in several ways. Kleiber gives unusual prominence to the cello theme heard early in the Allegretto, a device which is not entirely convincing. He omits all repeats, except in the Scherzo, and his speeds in all movements are faster than Toscanini’s in his pre-war BBC Symphony Orchestra performance (EMI also West Hill Radio Archives). In the Finale, Kleiber is half a minute faster than Toscanini. This is a significant acceleration in a seven-minute movement and frankly places physical excitement before any other qualities. The Bavarian orchestra sounds the equal of any in Europe and the sound is outstanding.

    In his DG performance only, Kleiber included the repeats in both the outer movements, whereas Klemperer omitted them in both his, perhaps in recognition of the expansiveness afforded by his much slower tempos. Predictably, he obtains a much weightier and darker tone than Kleiber did.

    The timings of Klemperer’s two recordings can be directly compared — due to their identical treatment of repeats — and it is interesting to note that in Philadelphia he was a minute faster than in London. Neither performance is 'the apotheosis of the dance' but the EMI performance has been called 'titanic' and that description applies even more to the one in Philadelphia. With this conductor, the excitement comes not from speed but from the intensity of the playing he obtains. Be prepared for a famous Klemperer 'ear-tickler' in the first movement's Allegro: his exaggeration of the great double hammer-blows. Some may find this a mannerism; others may guiltily look forward to it each time they hear him in this work.

    There is a marked difference in the sound produced by Klemperer’s two orchestras. In London, he obtained his usual rather grainy Beethoven sound from the Philharmonia players. In Philadelphia, the orchestra - as presented by Pristine - retained its trademark tonal sheen.

    To judge by the number of memorable recordings which have appeared over the last ninety years, Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, Pastoral may be the favourite symphony of the great conductors; I can think of only one significant conductor who recorded it unsatisfyingly. It was also the symphony by which many of us first experienced Beethoven's orchestral music and so has a special place in our hearts.

    My own favourite versions could hardly be more different: Toscanini's pre-war recording on HMV (reissued