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Original Masters - Erich Kleiber


Release Date: 08/10/2004 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 000298102   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenWolfgang Amadeus MozartFranz SchubertCarl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Hilde GuedenSieglinde WagnerAnton DermotaLudwig Weber
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic OrchestraRoyal Concertgebouw OrchestraLondon Philharmonic Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 7 Hours 13 Mins. 

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

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Bringing together some of Erich Klieber’s most widely admired recordings from the early and mid 1950s, this is surely an important and welcome reissue. But it is also a flawed one, especially on technical grounds that might well have been corrected prior to release. In varying degrees, the string tone throughout is uncomfortably shrill. This was true of the original releases of the Concertgebouw accounts of Beethoven’s Symphonies 3 and 7 (from 1950), No. 9 (from 1952), and the Vienna account of No. 3 (from 1953). On the other hand, the original London (and I presume Decca) LPs of the 1953 Concertgebouw accounts of Nos. 5 and 6 were free of the edgy stridency that marred their subsequent reissues in various formats, including CD. Also, the Read more transfer of London Philharmonic recording of No. 6—the only one in this set to have been originally produced (in 1948) on 78s—retains a clumsy side-join half way through the first movement. (Decca has been cavalier in this matter, an even more jarring, pitch-altering join marring its recent reissue of the Curzon-Szell “Emperor” Concerto.) Nonetheless, with a flexible equalizer of at least 10 bands, the unpleasant edge of the strings can be made to sound far more realistic in everything here expect, perhaps, the Mozart Symphony No. 40 (from 1949), which in every transfer I have heard, almost lacerates the ears. In short, if one can effect considerable sonic improvements at home, why couldn’t they have been imposed in production?

This said, so much of what is offered here commands attention on musical grounds that one is forced to overlook technical shortcomings. Probably the most widely (and justly) admired recording in this set is the Beethoven Fifth. From the rhythmic rigor of its first movement to the expansive splendor of its triumphant finale, it remains a phonographic marvel that anyone who cares about the work must hear. Almost as good is the 1953 VPO “Eroica.” It is a slightly fiercer and tougher account than the fine 1950 Concertgebouw version included here and benefits from better sound. It also includes a first-movement repeat that Kleiber ignored three years earlier. Some may (as I do) prefer the work with the repeat omitted, but as Michael Steinberg has aptly argued in his superb annotations in The Symphony, Oxford University Press), its inclusion is needed to balance an uncommonly long development section. Both accounts of the “Pastoral” (with first-movement exposition repeat omitted) are similar save for the earlier one also omitting the important repeat in the third movement. By virtue of its superior sound, the later one proves more attractive, but some may find in both versions a second movement too protracted and lacking flow, and a finale more precious than gladsome. In many respects, the Beethoven Seventh is admirable in its animated, dactylic profiling of the first movement, freedom from a dirge-like drear in the second, and refusal to rush in the finale. But—surprisingly from Keliber—some rhythmic eccentricities intrude, notably a tendency to surge forward and then hold back in the (unrepeated) first-movement exposition, and an awkward ritardando near the close of the finale. Despite shrillness, this transfer of the Beethoven Ninth has greater impact than any previous edition of the performance I have heard. In some respects, it suggests an updating of the 1935 Weingartner conception, even to the point of omitting both repeats in the second movement. As the original London/ Decca LP release gave an entire side to that movement, the omission would seem to have been based on an interpretive judgment, not space limitations. To be sure, Kleiber is a bit more expansive than Weingartner in the third movement, but never to the point of freezing its harmonic motion. And the quartet in the finale is distinguished, the one peculiarity in that movement being the rather understated eruption of the D-Major blaze that concludes the variations of the main theme prior to the entrance of the vocalists.

The one other performance originally recorded for Decca is the Mozart Symphony No. 40. Using the composer’s original version lacking clarinets, Kleiber projects an aptly grim, tautly organized account, its one shortcoming being an omission of the first movement’s exposition repeat. All of the other performances derive from Cologne Radio transcriptions. Originally issued in the US on the Amadeo label, they are less shrill than the Decca recordings, but still suffer from some of the metallic hardness that stamped German-radio recordings of the period. Nonetheless, their inclusion in this set is most welcome. The prize among them is this 1953 Schubert Ninth, to my mind, one of the great phonographic accounts of the work. Like Toscanini, Kleiber offers a first movement with an opening Andante that presses forward and clarifies the relationship of some of its material to the ensuing Allegro ma non troppo. In addition, unlike many conductors of the period, he does not impose a ritard toward the movement’s close. Thus, the triplets of the concluding measures do not lose (as they do, for example, with Furtwängler) their identity as a structurally central motif. With Kleiber favoring less forward-pressing tempos than Toscanini adopted in the two middle movements, some may well find that this performance, with its vibrant finale, offers the better of two remarkable views. The only repeat observed is the first of four in the third movement. The remaining Cologne recordings were made in 1956, the Mozart Symphony No. 39 (without exposition repeats) being taut and intense yet, where apt, pointedly lyrical and graceful and boasting welcome textural transparency. The four Mozart dances are aptly animated, the Weber symphony grand, but never pompous, bloated, or fussy.

A purely pragmatic note: the one disappointment about this production is Decca’s having dropped its practice in previous “Original Masters” sets of issuing discs in cardboard sleeves contained in a sturdy cardboard box. Instead, the company has reverted to the plastic jewel box. Aside from being clumsy to use, it is, housing six discs, easily broken. Still, this in no way negates the value of this set, both for its musical worth and for its documenting one of the most admired conductors of the first half of the 20th century.

Mortimer H. Frank, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria 
2. Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92: 3rd movement, Presto by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
3. Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
4. Symphony no 6 in F major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1808; Vienna, Austria 
5. Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Hilde Gueden (Soprano), Sieglinde Wagner (Alto), Anton Dermota (Tenor),
Ludwig Weber (Bass)
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Singverein
Period: Classical 
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 
Language: German 
6. Symphony no 40 in G minor, K 550 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
7. German Dances (4), K 602 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
8. Symphony no 39 in E flat major, K 543 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1788; Vienna, Austria 
9. Symphony no 9 in C major, D 944 "Great" by Franz Schubert
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1825-28; Vienna, Austria 
10. Symphony no 1 in C major, J 50/Op. 19 by Carl Maria von Weber
Conductor:  Erich Kleiber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1807/1810; Germany 

Sound Samples

Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 -"Eroica": 1. Allegro con brio
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 -"Eroica": 2. Marcia funebre (Adagio assai)
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 -"Eroica": 3. Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 -"Eroica": 4. Finale (Allegro molto)
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92: 1. Poco sostenuto - Vivace
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92: 2. Allegretto
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92: 3. Presto - Assai meno presto
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92: 4. Allegro con brio
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67: 1. Allegro con brio
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67: 2. Andante con moto
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67: 3. Allegro
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67: 4. Allegro
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 -"Pastoral": 1. Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande: Allegro ma non troppo
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 -"Pastoral": 2. Szene am Bach: (Andante molto mosso)
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 -"Pastoral": 3. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Allegro)
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 -"Pastoral": 4. Gewitter, Sturm (Allegro)
Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 -"Pastoral": 5. Hirtengesang. Frohe und dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm: Allegretto

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