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Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Beethoven: Symphony No 8 / Klemperer

Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Ica Classics   Catalog #: 5047  
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnLudwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Hanna LudwigKathe Moller-siepermann
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Radio ChorusCologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Symphony No 8 1. MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night’s Dream: incidental music 2 Otto Klemperer, cond; Cologne RSO ICA 5047 (73:00) Live: 1 5/28/1954; 2 9/11/1955

This release is the third live account to come my way of this Beethoven Read more symphony led by Otto Klemperer. As with those from 1956 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Music & Arts 1191) and 1963 and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Testament 1405), it proves far more stylish than the conductor’s stereophonic studio version from 1959. It might be argued that this symphony is a major achievement in musical satire, the composer pointedly, yet humorously and affectionately, mocking the late 18th-century traditions that he inherited. From the upside-down first-movement recapitulation (with the opening theme thrust into the lowest voices) to the off-the-beat timpani in the third movement and a finale whose coda is as long as its exposition, development, and recapitulation combined, this symphony displays Beethoven’s wit at its sophisticated best. I mention these traits because this Cologne performance offers Klemperer at his best in responding to these features that lend the work its special distinction. Particularly impressive are the two inner movements, both unfolding with greater animation and wit than in the conductor’s bland, plodding trek through them in his studio effort. In short, for anyone interested in Klemperer, this live performance is essential listening. All exposition repeats are observed

The 11 excerpts drawn from the incidental music that Mendelssohn composed for A Midsummer Night’s Dream comprise the familiar (Overture and Wedding March, for example) with lesser-known, shorter items, and are all well done. But they do not have the distinction that stamps this account of the Beethoven. Instead, music that should often convey an airy lightness, wit, and delicacy emerges with a comparatively matter-of-fact directness that does not do it full justice. Still, these items remain eminently listenable and are often valuable for offering fare rarely programmed or recorded. The few vocal items are sung in German by Käthe Müller-Singermann and Hanna Ludwig. An odd curio is an inclusion of the last minute and half of the rehearsal of the closing measures of the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. Klemperer’s comments are in German, and conductor and orchestra seem to have been having a good time. Most importantly, as an example of what Klemperer could achieve with the Symphony No. 8, this release, with its fine mono sound, certainly enriches his profile, even more strikingly than in the two other live accounts cited.

FANFARE: Mortimer H. Frank
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Works on This Recording

Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Hanna Ludwig (Soprano), Kathe Moller-siepermann (Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Radio Chorus,  Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Germany 
Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60: Excerpt(s) by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 

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