WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Mahler: Symphonies 2, 4, 7 & 9, Das Lied von der Erde / Klemperer

Klemperer,Otto
Release Date: 05/07/2013 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 483982   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Hilde Rössl-MajdanElisabeth SchwarzkopfChrista LudwigFritz Wunderlich
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia ChorusPhilharmonia OrchestraNew Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

It is to the eternal credit of British musical culture in the 50s and 60s that it gave Otto Klemperer the ideal working conditions for the “Indian summer” of his career. It certainly couldn’t have been easy. Difficult on the best of days, the manic depressive, partially handicapped artist was nevertheless a great musician, and many of the ninety or so CDs worth of music that he left as his EMI legacy remain essential listening, cornerstones of any serious collection. This is nowhere truer than with regard to his Mahler recordings.

Three of these performances remain reference recordings, one is idiosyncratic but still excellent in its way, and one is just plain weird. The reference recordings are Das Lied von der Erde with the
Read more incomparable Fritz Wunderlich and Christa Ludwig, the harrowing, haunting Ninth, and the positively cosmic Second. Klemperer was a selective Mahlerian (as he was with Bruckner, Strauss, and Wagner), but perhaps because he never conducted anything that he didn’t believe in 100%, these performances have a rugged honesty and integrity that make them especially convincing.

One example really tells the whole story: the climax just before the offstage cadenza in the finale of the Resurrection Symphony (sound clip). Has it ever sounded more cataclysmic, more thrillingly insane, but also so musical, so utterly unlike a noisy exercise in empty orchestral virtuosity? The quick first movement also proves that even at this stage of his career Klemperer was by no means “Mr. Slow.” The Ninth is one of those unflinching performances that seems made for an interpreter of Klemperer’s stoic, unsentimental temperament. In the finale he conveys what he called “the majesty of death” with unforgettable intensity.

The Fourth Symphony is idiosyncratic on account of its slowish opening movement, quick Adagio, and a finale featuring a soloist (Schwarzkopf) whose entire aesthetic is about as far from the innocent directness of expression Mahler demands as it’s possible to be. Yet somehow it all works because of the conviction that Klemperer finds in just about every phrase. As for the Seventh, Klemperer attended the premiere under Mahler, so there’s no question that his freakishly slow conception represents a deliberate statement of some kind. It isn’t as if he didn’t know how Mahler wanted the work to go.

Even though this performance lasts as long as most versions of the Third Symphony (100 minutes!), there is method behind this madness. Consider the opening of the finale (second sound clip). The unusual flexibility of tempo in the opening stages, the holding back only to push forward, reveals the thought that went into the interpretation. Eventually, the ear adjusts to the basic pulse (or lack thereof). I have to confess that I like this performance–not too often, mind you, but it reveals every thread of texture, strange bit of harmony, and each dab of Mahlerian color in the scoring like no other, and the playing is often amazing.

This set also includes the wonderful selection of five Lieder (three from the Rückert set plus two Wunderhorn songs) that Klemperer recorded with Christa Ludwig. The new remastering has notably improved the sonics. Not all of the boxes in this series have been similarly refurbished, and despite being available in various incarnations since the 60s, these performances were due. In particular, the Second sounds more open on top, and less murky generally, while in the finale of the Ninth that distracting woodwind screech at the climax has been placed in a truer, less obtrusive perspective.

I had planned to just sample this set and then go back and listen to the whole thing before writing this review, but after just a few minutes I was so captivated that I couldn’t stop listening. It was that compelling. I can think of worse ways to kill a morning, and I suspect you will feel the same.

– ClassicsToday (David Hurwitz) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 2 in C minor "Resurrection" by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Hilde Rössl-Majdan (Mezzo Soprano), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1896; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1961-62 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 79 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Language: German 
2.
Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 04/1961 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 54 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Language: German 
3.
Rückert Lieder (5): no 3, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1964 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Language: German 
4.
Rückert Lieder (5): no 4, Um Mitternacht by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1964 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Language: German 
5.
Des Knaben Wunderhorn: no 5, Das irdische Leben by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1893; Hamburg, Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1964 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Language: German 
6.
Rückert Lieder (5): no 2, Ich atmet' einen Linden Duft by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1964 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: German 
7.
Des Knaben Wunderhorn: no 9, Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1898; Hamburg, Germany 
Date of Recording: 02/1964 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Language: German 
8.
Symphony no 7 in E minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904-1905; Vienna, Austria 
9.
Symphony no 9 in D major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Austria 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 86 Minutes 40 Secs. 
10.
Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Fritz Wunderlich (Tenor), Christa Ludwig (Mezzo soprano)
Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1964/1966 
Venue:    

Sound Samples

Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': I. Allegro Maestoso
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': II. Andante moderato
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': IV. Urlicht. Sehr feierlich, aber schlicht
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': V. Im Tempo des Scherzos. Wild herausfahrend
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': Wieder sehr breit
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': Ritardando...Maestoso
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': Wieder zurückaltend
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': Langsam. Misterioso
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': Etwas bewegter
Symphony No.2 in C Minor 'Resurrection': Mit Aufschwung aber nicht eilen
Symphony No. 4 in G major: I. Heiter, bedächtig. Nicht eilen
Symphony No. 4 in G major: II. In gemächlicher Bewegung. Ohne Hast
Symphony No. 4 in G major: III. Ruhevoll
Symphony No. 4 in G major: IV. Sehr behaglich [with soprano solo]
Lieder: Ich bin der Wlt abhanden gekommen (Rückert)
Lieder: Um Mitternacht (Rückert)
Lieder: Das irdische Leben (from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn")
Lieder: Ich atmet' einen linden Duft (Rückert)
Lieder: Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen (from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn")

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Slower tempi than usual, perhaps, but every note  October 29, 2015 By Brent R. (San Jose, CA) See All My Reviews "Read Lloyd Schwartz's ecstatic review on NPR here: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=331996325" Report Abuse
 Must-have for Mahlerites June 12, 2013 By Martin H. (Gilbert, AZ) See All My Reviews "Since all of these recordings have been around for some time, many Mahlerites will have them, but for those just getting started, you must hear these recordings. Symphony 2: is powerful, unfussy and boy are there lots of ensemble problems: close to beginning a bassoon enters a bar early is a portent of things to come. Not perfectly played, but thrilling nonetheless. Symphony 4: Just outstanding. Tempos seem perfect Symphony 9: One of the greats. Walter should have some authority you would think, but Klemperer somehow wrings even more out it. Das Lied: Great by any standard. You wouldn't know that the last movement (heartbreakingly sung) was recorded a year after the rest. Symphony 7: If you love this symphony (I sure do) you will likely hate this recording. The middle three movements are fine - excellent playing and recording. The first though is bogged down by lethargic tempos. THere's no energy, excitement...nothing. How did the orchestra keep involved? The finale is almost as bad. Here's the problem: Klemperer worked with Mahler on the premier in Prague. Are these Mahler's tempos? Or was Klemperer too old to take on this difficult work? I can't accept this is the way it should go. Bernstein, Solti, Abbado, even Scherchen and Rosbaud make better cases than Klemperer. The remastered sound is excellent with some overloading the in Lieder attached to the 4th. At the price, you have to get this disk." Report Abuse
Review This Title