The name of Klemperer remains linked to that of Beethoven. The image persists of a style too heavy and massive to be ideal in Mozart. Yet, as Richard Osborne’s informative notes to this set point out, Mozart punctuated Klemperer’s career from almost the beginning to the very end. As early as 1914 he had conducted
Così fan tutte. By 1920 his unsentimental, classically direct Mozart was arousing critical attention. A performance of the
Haffner Symphony in Sweden in 1946 led directly to his appointment to Budapest Opera, while a 1951
Jupiter finally convinced Walter Legge that Klemperer was worth signing up. The
Jupiter was the opening salvo, in 1954, of the legendary Philharmonia/Klemperer collaboration.Read more The K.375 Serenade, with the wind band of what was now the New Philharmonia, brought the curtain down on Klemperer’s career in 1971.
Here we have, as far as I know, all the “official” Philharmonia/New Philharmonia EMI recordings, including duplications, of works for orchestra alone. The four operatic recordings are issued separately, while the Horn Concertos, with Alan Civil, and a Piano Concerto with Barenboim, are to be found in a box dedicated to Klemperer’s concerto collaborations. A few earlier recordings and various live recordings, some more official than others, have been sporadically available. They shed some light on the development of Klemperer’s performing style, in particular the issue of his slow tempi. As far as purely orchestral works are concerned, no performance seems to have come to light of any work that he did not also take into the studio in this last phase.
I’ve patiently listed the contents of the discs at the foot of the review. If you can find any logic - Mozart-wise or Klemperer-wise - to what seems to me a random, higgledy-piggledy sequence, please use our Bulletin Board. I’d love to know. For my own listening - and writing - I organized it into a chronological Klemperer-sequence. 1954
Klemperer had first conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1951. On the programme was a performance of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony that, as Richard Osborne tells us, “largely dispelled” Walter Legge’s residual doubts over the wisdom of backing Klemperer as a major EMI artist for the coming years. Negotiations were concluded in 1952 and October-November 1954 saw the first Klemperer/Philharmonia/Legge collaboration - the “Jupiter” and Mozart’s 29
th Symphony. Klemperer had mightily impressed Legge with a performance of this latter in Milan earlier the same year.
Modern listeners may find the initial attack of no. 29 somewhat puzzling. Not only is the tempo slow but the phrasing is practically all legato, with no space between the opening two notes, for example. It seems this subdued opening, this lack of an energetic profile to the theme, is how Klemperer sees it, since it is played the same way every time it appears. From the first forte passage the music gains a stately stride with textures that are full yet clear. Above all, a very special radiance shines through it. If Klemperer is not much interested in the rococo aspects of early Mozart, he never lets us forget that this music is the product of the age of enlightenment. The following andante similarly has a steady tread combined with warm but unsentimental phrasing. If you think by now you’ve got Klemperer’s Mozart summed up, the fiercely, almost viciously protesting Minuet will come as a shock, as will the abrasive finale.
The “Jupiter” is a pretty forceful affair. The first movement is proudly, even brusquely pulsating, the second is definitely in 3 not 6. In other hands it might have seemed too fast, but Klemperer’s beautifully shaped phrasing lends it a grave serenity. The Minuet is strong and vital, the Finale so fast as to risk sounding uncomfortable, especially since Klemperer pushes on inexorably. I must say I’d have preferred a little more breathing space. Interestingly Klemperer, having omitted the first movement repeat, gives the first repeat in the Finale. Presumably the aim is to make it the longest movement of the four.
1955 was largely taken up with the famous first mono recordings of Beethoven 3, 5 and 7. 1956 was the Mozart bicentenary and Klemperer was as busy with it as anyone. In March came “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, the “Serenata Notturna” and the C minor Adagio and Fugue. “Nachtmusik” is robust and firm in its step but, at tempi that probably didn’t sound particularly slow back then, it also has a good deal of grace. Much care is taken over phrasing and dynamics. It has to be added that ensemble isn’t always watertight, and this seems to disturb more in Mozart than in Beethoven or the romantics.
The presence of timpani in the “Serenata Notturna” often tempts conductors to make a rather boorish thing out of it. Klemperer amuses himself by teasing out Viennese sweetness where you’d least expect him to. The drums are well in the background. Less unexpectedly, he gets maximum profundity from the C minor Adagio and a gruff vigour from the Fugue.
From 19 to 25 July, with just one day of rest half-way, Klemperer set down five more symphonies.
No.25 actually came on the last day. The first movement is amazingly fiery. The second is as if suspended in time. Basically serene, at quite a swift tempo, the dark colours of the bassoon and horn counter-melodies lend the proceedings an air of profound unease. The Minuet is stern, the Finale dramatic in the truest sense. Brisk rather than dashing, it unfolds like an operatic finale, every theme announcing a new character or a new twist to the events. This was the first performance so far that had me reaching for the word “great”.
The “Linz” is outstanding too. I was about to say the abiding impression is of a fiery vitality, but I realized that, in truth, no element dominates over the others. Klemperer’s response to the meaning, colour and character of every phrase is extraordinarily detailed. If his Mozart was never rococo and frilly, there’s grace where required. If he was basically unsentimental, there’s real warmth in the slow movement. This is a performance that needs to be heard many times.
Was the success of these two recordings the reason that no later stereo versions were made of either? Klemperer certainly retained his affection for no.25. I recall it was included in one of the very last concerts he conducted, and most critics felt it the highlight of the evening.
In the slow introductions to nos. 38 and 39 Klemperer extracts a maximum of
Don Giovanni-like strength and gravity, without heaviness. Thereafter the “Prague” also gets a terse, briskly energized performance. I found plenty to admire in the fierce, fiery first movement but found myself hustled through the rest without sufficient breathing space. The slow movement is almost perfunctory.
No. 39 also has a vital first movement - the “Eroica” parallels predictably engaged Klemperer. Nor does he linger over the second movement, but this time I found him right inside the music, breathing it and expressing it. The Minuet has a purposeful stride - no Austrian charm in the trio, with almost caustic attention paid to the second clarinet’s busy part. The Finale may seem steady at first, but this soon proves the maximum speed at which all the notes will sound really brilliant. With the result that it ends up by sounding almighty fast.
I wouldn’t quite produce this 39 to convert those who say Klemperer’s methods were doubtfully suited to Mozart. Given the methods, though, and unlike the “Prague”, 39 shows them somewhere near their best.
th was always more controversial. It came out on LP coupled with the earlier G minor, no. 25; Klemperer clearly wished the two works to appear complementary. This they certainly do. If 25 was all fire and drama, the submissive poignancy with which the first movement of no. 40 steals in relates the work to the Requiem. None of the drive and drama of Toscanini or Furtwängler here. On the other hand, the sinking tonality at the beginning of the development has rarely been so moving. The Andante is spacious but the actual sound is lean, the climaxes uncompromisingly spare. The Minuet has a sort of gruff grace while the Finale begins so slowly one almost gasps. With brilliant string articulation, though, this tempo soon begins to sound the fastest one possible. The second subject fits this tempo beautifully. One is left reflecting that conductors who take a faster tempo either put on the brakes here or barge through unfeelingly. On its own terms this is a remarkable performance, one with a power to leave you wondering if its own terms might be Mozart’s as well.
How typical of Klemperer that he should have concluded his 1956 Mozart sessions with the “little” G minor symphony rather than complete his set of the “last six”. 1957-1959 were notably busy with Beethoven and Brahms, so the “last six” were completed only in 1960. First, however, he set down a recording of the
Entführung which seems low key at the beginning but soon has a sizzling vitality since the strings can really play the inner parts at this slightly-slower-than-usual tempo. His placing of the second violins on the right means we really hear them at it, too. Slightly odder is his relegation of the “Turkish” percussion elements - so greatly relished in Beecham’s roughly contemporary recording - to virtual inaudibility. Together with a stern rendering of the Andante section this makes for a concentration on the musical aspects. You wouldn’t necessarily guess that a comic opera is about to begin. Klemperer hoped to conduct a recording of the complete opera in his very last years. If I remember rightly a cast was actually assembled and, in the event, gave a Festival Hall performance under another conductor.
The “Haffner” shows Klemperer’s Mozart at its very finest. The opening may strike one as a tad slow, but there’s no sentimental slackening for the answering phrases and the whole first movement is illumined as with a radiant inner light. Likewise the second movement is devoid of rococo airs and graces, yet it is beautifully poised, without an ounce of romantic fat. The minuet does seem a pompous strut. But it wasn’t in Klemperer’s DNA to do a minuet at a tempo that wouldn’t fit the trio, and the trio here has a lovely ländler-like gait. The finale - well, I look like repeating myself every time a finale comes up. When it starts you think, gosh, it’s slow. But then comes brilliant string articulation that makes it actually seem fast, every new idea is characterized as in an opera finale, when a new character comes on stage. It’s worth coming to terms with Klemperer here.
In 1962 Klemperer returned to Mozart in a big way, replacing earlier mono or rudimentary stereo recordings of the “Prague” and the last three symphonies.
I found a definite gain only in no. 39. The tempi are only marginally slower and the result lends the reading a stature it just missed before. This is Mozart seen with Beethovenian hindsight, but this symphony can take it. If the first movement has an “Eroica”-like grandeur, the stomping minuet now exudes enjoyment and the finale has a Puckish relish that looks to Beethoven’s Fourth. The second movement, too, has an outdoor songfulness that relates it more to Beethoven Four than to the “Eroica”. This now joins the select list of Klemperer’s finest Mozart performances.
For the rest I was even doubtful whether the recordings themselves improved matters. It’s a more diffused sound compared with the lean quality of the earlier essays, as if a blunt instrument is being used to shape the music. On the other hand, is this a reflection of Klemperer’s growing tendency to concentrate on the grand design and let details fend for themselves? Fine as this can be in Beethoven and German romantics, the results here seem to show that Mozart really needs detailed sculpting of the single phrases. As it is the music trundles along grandly without greatly engaging this listener, at least. Occasional moments of incandescence only show that Klemperer was by now less able, or willing, to really stretch his players.
Having complained that the “Prague” was almost hustled along before, I certainly didn’t think that here. I suppose there’s gain in the slow movement but the finale is dispiriting.
So is most of no.40. Oddly enough the second movement has an identical timing, yet it sounds slower and heavier nonetheless. Readers who have noticed that the overall times of these two symphonies are actually shorter than before should be told that first movement repeats, present in the earlier recordings, are here dropped.
When I saw that the first movement of the “Jupiter” had increased from 8.01 to 9.17 I supposed it had gained its repeat - missing before. But no, it’s just an almighty lot slower. Frankly, it plods nor do the orchestra seem convinced, with several spurts into what must have seemed to them a more natural tempo, clawed back by the wet blanket on the rostrum. The rest is better and the finale rather grand, but none of it’s really as fine as before.
1963 saw recordings of symphonies 31 and 34 and the
Gran Partita. This project to set down three works he hadn’t recorded before certainly sounds to have been closer to his heart than the previous year’s batch of symphonies. If tempi are not breakneck there are none that are strikingly slow and there is abundant vitality plus, in the
Partita, a droll sprightliness. The “Paris” has a D major refulgence similar to Klemperer’s “Haffner”, while in no. 34 he particularly relishes the mock C major pomposity of the first movement, with its several curious wrong turns. In the
Partita he relishes the individual colours of the instruments, rather than having them blend smoothly like a harmonium. The chunky accompaniment to the Adagio third movement seems as much like a Stravinskian neo-classical take on Mozart as the real thing. Sublimity is there when needed - the penultimate variation of the 6
th movement - but is not overdone or applied where inappropriate. Mozartian grace and elegance is not lacking, yet the final effect is not of an aristocratic dinner party but a timeless celebration of something deeper.
If anyone has doubts about Klemperer’s Mozartian credentials, this trio of performances might be a good place to start.
Gran Partita had been produced by Ronald Kinloch Anderson, the first of the recordings discussed not to have been masterminded by Walter Legge. Legge, as is known, was coming to feel that Klemperer was no longer able to deliver, and 1964 was the year he tried to pull the rug from his feet by disbanding the Philharmonia Orchestra. The last Philharmonia performance in this box is the
Zauberflöte overture. This seems to have been extracted from the complete recording of the opera, which may account for the quite phenomenally detailed insights on offer. Joy and lightness, but also profound seriousness and some quite sinister elements all combine effortlessly. Peter Andry was the producer here and for a clutch of New Philharmonia recordings later in the year. At 4:31, Klemperer’s
Così fan tutte overture is actually swifter than the earlier Philharmonia recording under Böhm, highly regarded in its day. I find it uncomfortable, not because the tempo is an impossible lick - one has heard faster - but because Klemperer barges through without breathing space. His
Figaro overture, on the other hand, would give you a fairly solidly-boiled egg at 4:45. It doesn’t actually feel slow and is rougher and bolder than we usually hear. Klemperer allows some old-fashioned slowing in second-subject territory and I have the idea that the extra time is due to this.
Unreservedly fine are the overtures to
Don Giovanni - drama, tragedy, swagger and comedy - and
Clemenza, full of the sort of C major splendour he didn’t quite achieve in the
Jupiter two years before. The
Masonic Funeral Music is one of Klemperer’s unassailably great performances. Without labouring the point, he gives it a timeless depth and stature. This alone is worth the price of the set.
The message may have reached you that Klemperer’s remakes tend to be less desirable than his thoughts from the previous decade. There are exceptions.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik has added a few seconds to each of its movements, yet this is a case where, if you like that sort of thing at all, you may like this better. It all fits so perfectly together, somehow informed as by a steady, unwavering inner light.
Something similar happened with the following year’s remake of Symphony 29. Tempi are only fractionally slower, so the Minuet is still quite fierce and the
Allegro con spirito Finale has all the spirit you could want. If you don’t like the first movement in a moderate four - but it says
Allegro moderato, Klemperer would have pointed out - then I suppose you won’t like this either. I find that the slight extra space gives justification to the sublime approach. Furthermore, it is not at all heavy, all is light and grace here and in the second movement.
Symphony 33 was new to the Klemperer discography. Was it the appearance of the “Jupiter” theme in the first movement development that aroused his curiosity? Whatever, the performance is extremely detailed in its phrasing, vital and graceful by turns in the first movement and with an aura of dawning sublimity as the “Jupiter” motif breaks through. Klemperer is warm and tender in the second movement and quite brisk in the Minuet. The strange tarantella-like finale has a fizzing sense of enjoyment.
Two wonderful performances.
As read by Klemperer, the C minor Serenade is a symphony in all but its reduced instrumentation. The beginning is grave rather than fierce and the conductor finds heart-easing grace when the major-key second subject arrives. The tempo is not all that slow. The second movement has a hymn-like flow. The Minuet does sound rather sour. Did Mozart really write all this C minor music to charm his patron or was he protesting in some way? That’s how it sounds here. The finale, too, while starting off in quite a sprightly fashion - and the final pay-off is certainly perky - takes some doleful turns along the way. A slightly odd performance of a rather odd piece.
Post-1967, Klemperer set down his notoriously slow-motion versions of
Così fan tutte. The Serenade K.375 was his last recording session of all. The same piece was included the following week in what proved to be his last concert. EMI waited six years before issuing the recording.
This sounds ominous, but in reality all is gentle and serene. Tempi are comfortable but not untenably slow. Once set they do not drag, as sometimes happened with late Klemperer. Just possibly, a select group of eight of London’s finest wind-players - unnamed, unfortunately - were better equipped than the full orchestra to help the physically debilitated Klemperer obtain what he wanted. Richard Osborne quotes the producer, Suvi Raj Grubb, as saying “there was an extraordinarily single-minded concentration by Klemperer on those sessions … all his energies were focused on the music”. This shines through and the recording is a worthy pendant to the other Serenades heard in this set.
In short, this Mozart box seems to contain about the same proportion of great performances, near misses and damp squibs as all the other Klemperer boxes in this series. It certainly shows that his style was not inimical to Mozart. His finest Mozart performances are a match for any, and actually stand up better today than some that were more fêted in their own time.
-- Christopher Howell, MusicWeb International Read less
Symphony no 34 in C major, K 338by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1780; Salzburg, Austria Date of Recording: 1964
Symphony no 35 in D major, K 385 "Haffner"by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1962
Symphony no 36 in C major, K 425 "Linz"by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1783; Linz, Austria Date of Recording: 1962
Symphony no 38 in D major, K 504 "Prague"by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1963
Symphony no 39 in E flat major, K 543by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1962
Symphony no 40 in G minor, K 550by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1963
Symphony no 41 in C major, K 551 "Jupiter"by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1963
Symphony no 33 in B flat major, K 319by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Classical Written: 1779; Salzburg, Austria Date of Recording: 1966
Symphony no 39 in E flat major, K 543by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Conductor:
Period: Classical Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria Date of Recording: 1956
Great PerformancesJune 11, 2013By Mary Lynn H. (San Antonio, TX)See All My Reviews"These are great performances in the traditional style of the mid-twentieth century. Excellent orchestra with an impeccable conductor. These are performances that define an era. Great music! The sound quality is not 100 per cent but it's so listenable that it doesn't matter. Recommend."Report Abuse