Notes and Editorial Reviews
CARLOS KLEIBER: Rehearsal and Performance
Carlos Kleiber, cond; South German RSO
ARTHAUS 101 063 (DVD: 102:00) Live: Stuttgart 1970
J. STRAUSS II
These rehearsals and concert performances from 1970 capture the great Carlos Kleiber in his prime, on the verge of great
fame. He radiates energy and emotional response to every moment of the music. Formidably articulate, and as verbally resouceful as he is physically communicative, he gives almost no technical advice beyond twice asking the violins to play lower on the bow. The orchestra, mostly older men, is stone-faced. They seem a little incredulous that a conductor would say so much and stop so often to address details in two warhorses, but their playing is brought to a higher level by Kleiber’s cajoling, occasional impatience, praise, and encouragment to take risks. The atmosphere loosens up in the
Overture rehearsal. How could it not? Kleiber’s precision and dance-like grace communicate this music’s wit and effervescence so completely that anyone would be disarmed.
Arthaus’s presentation is straightforward. We watch 45 minutes of rehearsal of the
Overture—no narration, interviews, or supplementary material—followed by the performance. The same sequence follows with the
Overture. Watching the concert performances, given before a small audience in Stuttgart’s Villa Berg, the viewer will realize how many essential points were covered in the rehearsal. What might have seemed rambling or impulsive was actually carefully paced and organized.
Kleiber’s first comment in the
rehearsal is a whimsical bit of reverse psychology: “Let your colleague come in first—maybe he will guess right.” It serves notice to the orchestra and the viewer that nothing will be routine. (It also cleans up the opening entrance.) For Kleiber, the instruments are interchangeable with the opera’s characters. He knows
) inside out and assumes that the orchestra does, too. Indeed, the majority of his instructions reflect his experience in the opera house. They concern the music’s emotional quality, the dramatic character of sound, the color achieved by proper balance between instruments, and above all, the need for the players to listen to each other and for lines to sing.
For the 10 minutes of
overture, Weber transcends his place as a second-rank composer and achieves a level of greatness comparable to Beethoven’s—the piece owes a lot to the
overtures—or the best of early Wagner. At the cathartic C-Major outburst that starts the overture’s final section, the look of utter joy on Kleiber’s face moved me, literally, to tears. The man is possessed by the music. Watching him in his tailcoat from the audience’s vantage point, he resembles the heroic image of the “Traveler Looking out at the Fog” in Caspar David Friedrich’s emblematic romantic painting. (In the
Oveture, his elegant lightness of bearing brings to mind the statue of Johann Strauss in Vienna’s Stadt Park, minus the violin.)
Kleiber rarely appeared before cameras or gave interviews, so Arthaus provides a rare opportunity with this release. This DVD should be required viewing for students of conducting and is urgently recommended to everyone else. It shows what can be achieved in rehearsals when the conductor is a genius. I also recommend
Traces to Nowhere
, an in-depth German documentary about Kleiber.
FANFARE: Paul Orgel
Subtitles: German, English, Spanish, French, Italian
Format: PCM Mono, NTSC
Aspect Radio: 4:3
Production Year: 1970
Works on This Recording
Der Freischütz, J 277: Overture by Carl Maria von Weber
South German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1817-1821; Dresden, Germany
Die Fledermaus: Overture by Johann Strauss Jr.
Written: 1874; Vienna, Austria
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