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Merry Waltz; Weill Kleine Dreigroschenmusik; Hindemith Nobilissima Visione; Stravinsky Symphony in three movements
Philharmonia Orchestra/Klemperer
EMI Classics CDM 5 67337 2 5 73'30"

This release in EMI's The Klemperer legacy series is notable as a reminder of the breadth of Otto Klemperer's repertoire in earlier years. It is also humbling to be reminded that Klemperer, as also many conductors, was a prolific composer. Although he had to his name 6 symphonies, 9 string quartets and a hundred songs, he did not exploit his great fame in later years by programming his own compositions. This excerpt from a 1915 opera, revised in the '70s, is however not all that merry; slightly soured Strauss, I thought it.

Hindemith, to my surprise, is described in the notes as now 'little more than a name' to younger music-lovers, having been in the 'top half-dozen' of contemporary composers for a long time previously. Perhaps this is but an example of the gulf between concert programming and radio/recording output. I hadn't noticed his disappearance - he has always been part of my musical life; I used to enjoy playing his piano and organ sonatas and I have piano transcriptions of music from Nobilissima Visione, his ballet score about St Francis of Assisi. It includes a beautiful prelude and pastorale, and culminates with a lengthy, ultimately rather grandiose, passacaglia. It is the earliest of these remastered recordings which date from 1954-62.

He recorded the Stravinsky in 1965 and it comes up well, firm and severe, completely unfussy, a bold, intense account of a much-recorded masterpiece, with some 15 versions now in the catalogue. But the best reason for buying this CD is, I think, the inclusion of Klemperer's historic account of the suite from the Weill Threepenny Opera. Otto Klemperer himself commissioned this suite for winds & percussion, based on the original score, and he premiered it in Berlin in 1929. It comes up vivid and pungent in this 1961 recording, excellently transferred by Allan Ramsay, holding its own easily against later versions.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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