BRAHMS Variations on a Theme by Haydn. SCHUBERT Symphony No. 4, “Tragic.” R. STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks • Otto Klemperer, cond; Concertgebouw O • MUSIC & ARTS 1207, mono (62:16) Live: Amsterdam 2/7/1957
Put simply, these performances show Klemperer either at his very best (in the Schubert) or, in the other two works, very close to it. ItRead more has been more than 50 years since I last heard the conductor’s Vox recording of the Schubert with the Lamoureux Orchestra, and a dim memory suggests that this is a superior effort. Those who cling to the notion that Klemperer was a tired and rigid authoritarian during his later years will find a very different conductor here—animated, at times even fierce—producing a reading that is transparent, free of even a hint of being stolid, and aptly suggestive of the music’s implicit Sturm und Drang intensity. Purely as a performance, it is as good as any I have heard. The only objection some might have is that while including a first-movement repeat, it bypasses the one in the finale. The two remaining items are also prime Klemperer. Admittedly, the Strauss has less drive than the Klemperer of 1929 displayed in his first of two studio accounts of the score. Not having heard his later stereo effort for EMI, I can’t say how it compares to this live one. But, as in another live Klemperer account (with the Cologne Radio Symphony, included in EMI’s “Great Conductors of the 20th Century” series), this one is pointedly impish, witty, and—where apt—deliciously brash. The Brahms is very similar to the conductor’s EMI stereo account: a bit reserved without the refreshing contrasts from one variation to another that Toscanini brought to the score, but free of the excessive weight and breadth that some conductors have imposed on it
Contrary to Music & Arts’s claim, not everything here is “previously unreleased.” As the detailed Klemperer discography by Michael Gray in Volume 2 of Peter Hayworth’s biography of the conductor makes clear, the Schubert and Brahms were issued before, the Brahms by both Music & Arts and Hunt, the Schubert by Memories, Frequencz, and Bella Musica. Only the Strauss may be new to CD. Finally, the sound, if occasionally gritty, is reasonably wide in dynamic range and, though lacking some top, fairly accurate in timbre. Most important, this shows the Klemperer of the 1950s at his best with one of the world’s finest orchestras. This should be recommendation enough.
Symphony no 4 in C minor, D 417 "Tragic"by Franz Schubert Conductor:
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1816; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 02/07/1957 Venue: Live Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28by Richard Strauss Conductor:
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1894-1895; Germany Date of Recording: 02/07/1957 Venue: Live Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56a, "St. Anthony Variations"
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417, "Tragic": I. Adagio molto - Allegro vivace
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417, "Tragic": II. Andante
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417, "Tragic": III. Menuetto: Allegro vivace - Trio
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417, "Tragic": IV. Allegro