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Beethoven: Piano Concertos, Etc / Barenboim, Klemperer


Release Date: 09/10/2002 
Label:  Emi Studio Catalog #: 63360   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia OrchestraJohn Alldis Choir
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 31 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Klemperer was one of the few great Beethoven conductors—perhaps the only great Beethoven conductor—who consciously determined to record not only the nine symphonies, the overtures, and Fidelio but also the concertos as well. He had done concert cycles, perhaps most memorably in London in the 1950s with Claudio Arrau but his decision to record the piano concertos in 1967 at the age of 82 came as a result of his admiration for the most precociously talented of all young Beethoven pianists at the time, Daniel Barenboim. Barenboim was 25 and about to embark on what was to be an exceptionally fine cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas. He was steeped in Beethoven and perhaps peculiarly well suited to the concertos which, we should not forget, are Read more essentially young man's music; music full of fantasy and touched by many moments of visionary longing—always the young man's prerogative but, for the most part, motioned and motivated by a certain extroversion, by a spirit of adventure, and playful enquiry. It was a fascinating pairing, Klemperer and Barenboim contrasted in age and to some extent in temperament but at the same time symbiotically at one musically. Had this not been the case, Barenboim would have been swamped, lost in the wash of Klemperer's accompaniments which deliver the orchestral argument and the orchestral detail with an articulacy and authority unique in the history of these works on record.

By 1967 EMI's Robert Gooch knew exactly the sound Klemperer wanted and these recordings the piano always well placed, were notable for the big, bright, open sound Klemperer required. The spectrum is wide with the string band spaciously spread from the first violins on the left across to the second violins on the right. But, above all, it is the forwardness of the woodwinds—in Klemperer's balancing not Gooch's—that gives the sound its distinctive character. In most Beethoven concerto cycles the recording of the woodwinds is rather a hit-or-miss affair, but here they are the very warp and weft of both texture and argument. Once or twice their presence is too zealously pressed, there are some sustained wind chords in the slow movement of the Emperor Concerto that are more mf than pp. But in general, the balances are revelatory. Technically, the recordings have come up very well, bright and clean, without a trace of tape hiss. And EMI have edited the tapes well, with decent spaces between works and sensible spaces between movements, including a near attacca from slow movement to finale in the C minor, vital if we are to grasp the point of Beethoven's witty harmonic aphorism at this juncture.

The performance of the B flat Concerto the first historically if not numerically, is a typical joy, full of fire and grace and unstoppably vital. Interestingly, this is the one concerto where Barenboim later on in his career has tended to take slower tempos than here, both in slow movement and finale. Given Klemperer's propensity for taking slow tempos in Beethoven, you might imagine him being taken for a ride by the young Barenboim in the B flat and C major finales. But not a bit of it. It is Klemperer, as much as his youthful soloist, who seems to be the driving force here. Meanwhile Barenboim is not at all afraid to take the cues generously offered by Beethoven for the soloist to play cat-and-mouse with the orchestra. But here again Klemperer gives as good as he gets with some spectacular woodwind jousts. A couple of glorious flute calls in the coda of the finale of the C major Concerto recall the spirit of Mozart's Die Zauberflote, a spirit that seems to pervade the entire performance, in repose as much as in play. Rarely on record has the slow movement of the C major Concerto been played with so natural a sense of concentrated calm, the whole thing profoundly collected on the spiritual plane. Yet, curiously, in the first movement we see evidence of a degree of artistic divergence that in other circumstances might have wrecked a collaboration. Where Klemperer is truculent and grand, all Johnsonian clear-sightedness, Barenboim is positively withdrawn, the playing reflective, even at times a touch perfumed. It is an approach he has dropped in later years (though he still plays his own slightly kitschy cadenza, the only non-Beethoven cadenza in the Klemperer set) and one wonders whether Klemperer would have taken it from, say, the young Eschenbach or Ashkenazy. But one of the joys of the Barenboim/Klemperer cycle is its occasional unpredictability: rock-solid readings that none the less incorporate a sense of 'today we try it this way'.

In the G major Concerto's slow movement, Orpheus taming the beasts, Barenboim is well cast as Orpheus, Klemperer as the Hycran tiger of Macbeth's imagining. Elsewhere in the concerto the debate is ostensibly between Klemperer's almost perverse clear-sightedness and Barenboim's need to realize something of the work's inner sense of fantasy. In fact, spaces are created for soloistic imaginings and once or twice Klemperer drops his guard; the first movement recapitulation is unusually tender orchestrally. But in the end, I don't feel the performance quite adds up. Ensemble is mostly first rate during the cycle. The tricky coda of the first movement of the C minor Concerto is both rapt and dramatic. But in the coda of the first movement of the G major there is little doubt that Klemperer drags the pulse. And elsewhere there are some occasionally awkward adjustments to be made between soloist and orchestra.

Outwardly, and not for the first time on record it is the C major Concerto which receives the most controversial reading with a very slow first movement and rather steady final Allegro. But I find the performance very much of a piece, a success on its own terms. Brendel will tell us that we must take seriously Czerny's metronome crotchet = 144 in the first movement. Perhaps, but Klemperer prefers crotchet = 112, so farewell Czerny! Again the slow movement is a joy, poetically felt and wonderfully grave with some mesmerizing quiet playing from Barenboim, often in cadences or asides that are only a second or so long, the dynamic control quite breathtaking.

At the time, the Emperor performance was generally adjudged a success. It is again broadly conceived. In the first movement ritornello Klemperer is striding the lonely heights whilst at the piano's re-entry Barenboim seems to be contemplating the beauty of lusher valleys, the lotus-lands below. In the virtuosic piano-writing in the re-exposition there is some sense of strain in Barenboim's playing; though a sense of strain in Beethoven is not necessarily a bad thing. At first the finale seems a little staid; but later the 6/8 rhythms are made to dance and the performance has a burning energy by the end. So does the account of the Choral Fantasia, always one of the set's rarer delights. Barenboim manages to be both imposing and playful in the piano preface and Klemperer relishes the low-life junketings of the finale's instrumental pages as much as the blaze of the choral peroration with its anticipations of the end of Fidelio or the Ninth Symphony.

Given Klemperer's magisterial style and authority, I suppose this set could have emerged as five symphonies with piano obbligato. In fact, it is a set of rare authority and spontaneity. When EG reviewed the original LPs in April 1969, he was compelled to hear the performances through at a single sitting. I haven't quite tried to emulate that but, unusually, I found myself trying to work out the earliest opportunity at which I might hear the next instalment, much as one might mark out a time to continue with an unusually absorbing new novel. This is a rare experience to have with a set of gramophone records, let alone reissued gramophone records. But this set has always been slightly special, at once authoritative and inspiringly idiosyncratic. On the premise that the soloist is protagonist, I would still return ultimately to either of the Kempff cycles on DG (the stereo version with Leitner is available on CD); but given the slightly more unconventional idea of the soloist as primus inter pares this set is probably unique.

-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone [3/1990]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1967 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in G major, Op. 58 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
5.
Concerto for Piano no 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 "Emperor" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
6.
Fantasia in C minor, Op. 80 "Choral Fantasy" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Daniel Barenboim (Piano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  John Alldis Choir,  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15 (Cadenza by Barenboim) (1990 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15 (Cadenza by Barenboim) (1990 Digital Remaster): II. Largo
Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15 (Cadenza by Barenboim) (1990 Digital Remaster): III. Rondo (Allegro scherzando)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 19 (1990 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 19 (1990 Digital Remaster): II. Adagio
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Op. 19 (1990 Digital Remaster): III. Rondo (molto allegro)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op.37 (1990 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro con brio
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op.37 (1990 Digital Remaster): II. Largo
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op.37 (1990 Digital Remaster): III. Rondo (Allegro - Presto)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 (1990 Digital Remaster): I. Allegro moderato
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 (1990 Digital Remaster): II. Andante con moto
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Op. 58 (1990 Digital Remaster): III. Rondo (Vivace)

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