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The Klemperer Edition - Romantic symphonies and overtures
Full track-listing at end of review
Philharmonia and New Philharmonia Orchestras/Otto Klemperer
EMI CLASSICS 4043092 [10 CDs: 746:07]


 
The image of Klemperer as an austerely intellectual guardian of the Austro-German classics may get you wondering if EMI haven’t conveniently grouped together all the Klemperer you don’t need.
 
Think again … as I have. All these performances were on full-price LPs, or still coming out, when I began collecting records. A mixture of youthful prejudice and not always laudatory contemporary reviews meant that I missed out on everything here except the Berlioz. It’s been, with very few exceptions, a revelation and a privilege to catch up.
 
I’ll start with the Austro-Germans.
 
In the first movement of Schubert 5 we immediately note the forwardly-balanced wind that are a constant feature of Klemperer’s work. Allied to sharp accents, a sense of jaunty enjoyment is conveyed. The tempo is at the slower end of the norm. This allows grandeur, but with clear textures and well-sprung rhythms the music never becomes too weighty for what it is. No repeat.
 
The Andante con moto is amply, even sublimely phrased, but by careful rhythmic handling it nevertheless maintains a feeling of two-in-the-bar not six. The more dramatic parts are not allowed to slog. The Menuetto has a nice rustic lilt. One of the revelations of the set, for me, is Klemperer’s handling of dance movements, which unfailingly have the spirit of the dance. There are also some gorgeous wind solos in the trio. Let us not forget that this orchestra contained some of the finest players of the day, putting all their artistry at the service of a conductor they worshipped.
 
The controversial movement is the finale – slow finales will be something of a leitmotif throughout the set. This one’s steady but vital, and not heavy. At times the phrasing is so detailed that you wonder how it could ever go faster. But it usually does, and has more sheer spin as a result, in the triplet sections for example. I’ll only add my personal experience that for most of the following day this finale went revolving around in my head, and always at Klemperer’s tempo, which increasingly came to seem the right one.
 
No controversial tempos in the Unfinished Symphony. The first movement is urgent and dramatic, with a real sense of foreboding at the opening. The second subject is serene, tenderly regretful, the development is powerful without heaviness. The repeat is played. The Andante con moto is expansively expressed but manages to give the idea of one-in-the bar. Deep colours and proto-Wagnerian brass combine with the steady tread of a Bach aria.
 
Thus far, in spite of the slowish finale to Symphony 5, these have been fine interpretations that do not unseat our preconceptions of the music. Klemperer’s Great C major will probably do just that.
 
The introduction is actually quite swiftly flowing for those days. There’s no accelerando into the Allegro ma non troppo, only a slight tightening of the tempo. That’s all Klemperer needs because he simply strides into a tempo where the new half-bar equals the old quarter-bar. It’s a decidedly slower-than-usual pace, but with chirpy, carolling wind and sometimes brazen brass it’s all very alive. The second subject emerges completely naturally at this tempo. With a faster tempo, even a “faithful” conductor like Boult had to ease the pace a little here. Klemperer’s solution to the coda is remarkable. With only the slightest broadening, he brings the final unison statement of the theme of the introduction back at practically the same tempo it had at the beginning. Here, in fact, is another constant we shall find in this set: when a movement, or a whole symphony, has a motto theme, Klemperer manages to work out a tempo scheme by which the motto always comes back at about the same speed.
 
The Andante con moto is a real Winterreise, sometimes chunkily bleak, sometimes tenderly regretful, always moving inexorably forward. The climax is frighteningly dramatic. The actual tempo will not surprise anyone, but the landler-like Scherzo is pretty slow. It has a steady lilt that means Klemperer does not need to relax for the trio. Perhaps this is the point to say that the performance is distinctly short on repeats. No issue over those in the outer movements, which no one included on disc for almost another two decades, but even the Scherzo is considerably foreshortened.
 
The leisurely third movement helps to make the finale seem relatively swift. It is indeed trenchantly active, building up an inexorable momentum not always achieved by faster versions, and with all guns ablaze by the end.
 
Of the three Schubert performances, this is certainly the most original and revelatory. It nevertheless illustrates a “Klemperer problem” that caused head-shaking among critics of the day. Can a critic unreservedly recommend a performance so far away from the norm – unless, of course, he is quite convinced that everyone else got it wrong? I found this “Great C major” riveting, inspiring and thought-provoking. I shouldn’t think, though, that the interpretative solutions tried here would work for anyone except Klemperer, and no one has tried to imitate them as far as I know. And, to appreciate it fully, you would surely have to measure it against a knowledge of how the music “usually” goes.
 
Of the two Mendelssohn symphonies, it is the “Scottish” that impresses most, and indeed mightily. The introduction is amazingly wide-ranging in its grave expressiveness and dynamic shading, while a slowish but not inflexible main Allegro develops a rugged strength as the storm brews through the movement. The Scherzo seems slow at first but it is delicate and the detailed phrasing makes for a convincingly vivacious effect. The piquant orchestration really tells. The Adagio is intense, with lots of dynamic shading. Though on the slow side, it is beautifully poised over the ongoing pizzicato lower strings. In the finale, sharp rhythmic definition ensures vivacity while the steady tempo maintains an air of Nordic severity. Klemperer greatly admired the symphony up to this point but was always unhappy with the coda. He went off on tour half-way through an earlier Vox recording, discovering to his horror when he came back that a local professor had been brought in to conduct the rest and the whole symphony issued under his name. That was the end of his Vox association. On this occasion he shocked Walter Legge by announcing that he would either record the symphony without the coda or write a new coda himself. Fortunately for us Legge was a redoubtable character too and in the end Klemperer buckled under and concluded a marvellous performance by faking a grand conviction we know he did not feel. Some years after, with Legge safely out of the way, Klemperer conducted the symphony at the Royal Festival Hall with his own specially composed ending. A recording of this event has been issued.
 
The Italian Symphony satisfied me slightly less. No complaints about the inner movements. The second is gravely expressed but kept moving while the third has a gracious flow and very clear phrasing. Both outer movements get off to a rather ragged start, then settle into strong, energetic but not very vivacious readings. It is not so much a question of tempo – Klemperer is not especially slow and the well-considered Boston/Munch recording has timings only a few seconds shorter in all four movements. It’s more a question of colour. One appreciates the conductor’s avoidance of the merely picturesque, but a certain dourness seems to want to turn this into “Scottish Symphony no.2” rather than “Italian Symphony”.
 
I rather expected Klemperer to turn The Hebrides into a preview of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, and I rather wish he had. Instead, he provides a well-prepared, straight-down-the-line reading that perhaps stretches neither himself nor his players to the utmost limit.
 
A quite different level of orchestral attentiveness is to be heard in the comprehensive selection from Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The overture may be spacious, but it has some fantastic colouring and lacks nothing in tenderness or vivacity. The Scherzo is certainly not presented as an exercise in orchestral virtuosity, or at least not overtly. The mysterious nocturnal colouring provided by the Philharmonia testifies in truth to an infinitely deeper virtuosity than that needed just to play it as fast as possible. And so it goes on, encapsulating the entire range of Mendelssohn the composer, from droll humour in the clown’s music to an almost operetta-like sumptuousness in “Ye Spotted Snakes”. The Nocturne gets Tannhäuser-treatment but works because it has such deep feeling and intensity, while the Wedding March is jubilant and buoyant, the brass in full cry at the end. There are also the voices of Heather Harper and the young Janet Baker to be enjoyed. Despite the deep satisfaction to be obtained from the Scottish Symphony, I would say that Klemperer’s revelatory Mendelssohn performance is the Midsummer Night’s Dream music. It shows him at his greatest, and in an unaccustomed role.
 
The Schumann Symphonies bring another “Klemperer problem”. So far all performances have been with the Philharmonia Orchestra, which Walter Legge disbanded in 1964, at least partly in order to pull the rug from under the feet of a conductor whom he felt was failing in his powers, including his hearing. The orchestra re-formed itself immediately as the New Philharmonia and made Klemperer its President. Nevertheless, his performances over the following nine years grew increasingly ponderous, even embarrassing to some ears. The “Rhenish” Symphony, the latest performance in this entire box, led the E.M.G. Monthly Letter, not an automatic admirer of Klemperer at the best of times, to “wonder if the great name of Otto Klemperer is being exploited regardless of the results”. For the uninitiated, the presence of the New Philharmonia, rather than the Philharmonia, can sound a warning bell but it isn’t that simple. The trend was downward but Klemperer’s powers didn’t suddenly desert him one day in the middle of 1964. Schumann’s First Symphony, set down about a year into the new regime, is actually the Schumann performance I found most rewarding.
 
There’s a certain air of defiance to it, a sense of “I’ll-show-them-I’m-not-played-out-yet”. After a grand, imposing – if not always ideally precise – introduction the Allegro molto vivace leaps into life with terrific, stomping rhythm. The tempo is certainly not fast, which means Klemperer has space for much tender phrasing in second subject territory. Yet the abiding impression is of coursing vitality, with a coda that really blazes. The Larghetto is intense, amply phrased with full yet luminous sound. The Scherzo emerges as a lolloping landler with a surging rhythm, the first trio is a bucolic contredanse, the second a run for cover. The end is poetically handled. The woodland revels of the finale are certainly given their time – Furtwängler took a similar view – but the episodes are firmly charted and the end is thrilling with baying trombones. A great performance.
 
From three years later, the Second Symphony is to be approached with more caution. Yet all is not lost. The introduction is very broad but it does get under way. The Allegro ma non troppo has a majestic vitality and strong conviction. It has to be said that this tempo doesn’t help to disguise Schumann’s repetitive development but in the end sheer guts mostly save the day. The Scherzo is very far from a virtuoso spin à la Szell, but it is quite light and dancing even so. The rallentandos and tempo changes in the first trio come off rather shakily – more guidance was needed than the conductor was able to give. When the scherzo returns it risks running ahead at a faster tempo, but Klemperer regains control in a few bars. The return of the motto theme does make more sense than usual at this slowish tempo, I must say. The Adagio espressivo is gravely beautiful, the syncopated accompaniment setting up a troubled groundswell. The tempo is not especially slow. Only a patch of bad ensemble between staccato strings and the wind band prevents this movement from being a complete success. The finale is grand, almost like a patriotic hymn. A certain rhythmic swing prevents it from getting too heavy. The Beethoven “An die ferne Geliebte” theme is broadly sung. The return of the third movement theme and of the motto theme at the end sound natural in this tempo. So, while the impression remains that it would have all come off better a few years earlier there is still a lot to be gleaned here.
 
Rather less from the Rhenish Symphony. The very slow first movement opens with a certain majestic splendour but tension is not held and I found myself simply noting which parts just about worked at this tempo and which didn’t. It was a weary slog to the end. The middle movements are more plausible. Though the Scherzo is slow it is well-phrased with a serene flow and the different episodes certainly fit together beautifully at this pace. As for the third movement, most performances of this are too fast for me, and Klemperer is not much slower than René Leibowitz, whose leisurely reading – in the context of an otherwise bracing, exhilarating performance – I adore. Klemperer is more introverted in his expression than Leibowitz, but not less effective. The solemn fourth movement comes off well. But the finale is a real problem. Klemperer’s interpretation of Lebhaft is to offer a perky little march, quite light and charming but it seems to go on for ever. It has to be said that the return of themes from earlier movements is made into an entirely natural conclusion, whereas other conductors either breeze through or slow down pompously. So no doubt the Klemperer formula would have worked in his halcyon days. As it is, if the idea of an expansive Rhenish Symphony appeals to you, late Celibidache in Munich is almost as slow – slower in the third and fourth movements – and brought off with more sense of continuity.
 
I feel a little guilty in finding the First Symphony my favourite, since the Fourth Symphony is a vintage Klemperer/Philharmonia performance and most critics have rated it the big success of the cycle. As with other cyclical works, Klemperer has worked out a ground-plan where the thematic signposts all come out at about the same speed whenever they occur. So the theme of the introduction, in itself not especially slow, fits perfectly into the faster-than-usual Romanze. And the solo violin figuration from the Romanze re-emerges in the trio to the Scherzo, pretty briskly both times. The motto themes shared between the first and last movements seem part of a unified conception, not a scissors-and-paste job by the composer. If this sounds academic, the result in performance is not at all pedantic because it is done with total conviction. If there isn’t the uniquely re-creative zeal of Furtwängler’s extraordinary realization, there is scarcely less incandescence. One reservation I have is that when Schumann bangs away at sequences in the place of real development – as he is inclined to do in even his finest large-scale works – Klemperer is simply too honest to disguise it. I noticed this at times in the finale. Here the Furtwängler technique of starting such passages below tempo and accelerating through them yields greater dividends. A magnificent, fiery performance all the same.
 
I hope I am not just hearing what I had programmed myself to hear if I say that the overtures follow the pattern of the symphonies they were originally coupled with. It was cruel to follow the Fourth Symphony by the Faust Overture, set down with the Rhenish Symphony. The less tight ensemble is immediately noticeable, yet one still senses a strong personality at the helm. Klemperer is thoroughly attuned to the grave unease of late Schumann, but as the music gets under way, well, it doesn’t so much get under way as get bogged down. The gaunt but imposing Genoveva Overture came with the Second Symphony. The introduction raises the highest expectations but the main part hangs fire. The coda shows Klemperer could still summon blazing conviction from the orchestra, at least in short stretches. Best is the Manfred Overture, originally the companion of the First Symphony. No lack of fire or energy here, nor of poetry. The music’s restless, uneasy path is plotted unerringly.
 
The Weber overtures are from the palmiest days of the Klemperer/Philharmonia/Legge team. The horns at the opening of Der Freischütz are the stuff of legends. Here there is poetry, vitality and a subtle differentiation between the three pieces, Der Freischütz romantic and sometimes mysterious, Euryanthe the most heroic and, finest of all, a delicate magic in Oberon to remind us of Klemperer’s success in the Midsummer Night’s Dream music.
 
If you think Klemperer in Johann Strauss sounds like a recipe for a wooden leg, make sure you hear these three performances. After a gruff opening, Die Fledermaus overture gets off to a delightful lilt, passing easily from point to point. There’s even the odd delayed upbeat in the waltz and an accelerando into the polka. He lets rip at the end. This is splendid enough, but the two waltzes really are wonderful … and authentic. The accredited Strauss conductor Klemperer most nearly resembles is Robert Stolz, and you can’t get much closer to the real thing than that. For Klemperer, as for Stolz, waltzes are there to be danced. You may have a delayed upbeat into them, there may be an occasional rallentando into a new section, but apart from that everything dances, elegantly but steadily. With the difference that, truth to tell, Klemperer has a lighter touch than Stolz, at least the Stolz of the last recordings, and he is a master of phrasing and balance in a way Stolz never was. So in spite of the strict dance tempo he uncovers a wealth of subtle details. An imperishable lesson in how to play Strauss.
 
The remarkable thing about Klemperer’s rare forays into French repertoire is that he emerges as a colourist and an orchestral stylist. He doesn’t try to make Berlioz sound like Beethoven, or Franck like Wagner. His reading of the Symphonie Fantastique starts from the realization that Berlioz was a classicist and an admirer of Gluck. At the outset we get a more string-based texture than Klemperer usually gives us, with a beautiful sheen on the sound. The classical vision becomes drug-crazed and psychedelic as the first movement proceeds, but retains a sense of latent power. The Ball offers a gentle waltz, only momentarily unfazed by the return of the idée fixe, the Scene in the Country is a long-drawn, mournful meditation. The March to the Scaffold is shockingly effective with “dirty” brass blazing. The Witches’ Sabbath may be slowish yet the transformation of the idée fixe sounds truly lurid, as does the Dies Irae theme, while the bell has your scalp tingling. This recording, made at a time when Berlioz was usually seen as a reckless, formless romantic firebrand, has not always been given its full due.
 
The first thing to strike about Klemperer’s Franck Symphony is again his powers as colourist. Nasal wind and fruity brass, with even a touch of vibrato, combine with steep crescendos and diminuendos, urgent phrasing and kaleidoscopic examination of the inner parts create a suitably restless introduction. The main allegro of the first movement is broad – though one has heard broader – enabling troubled contemplation and energetic fervour to coexist without halting the stride. The second movement is fairly swift with much play of countermelodies and the nocturnal rustlings of the incorporated scherzo accommodated within the tempo. The initial impact of the finale is that it’s slow, but it actually has a glorious swing. Thereafter Klemperer surges through without the need to slow down for the second theme. The reminiscences of the earlier movements all fit perfectly into the scheme without the need either to halt the proceedings or frog-march through them in the name of structure. Criticism of Franck’s symphonic architecture is meaningless before this demonstration that Klemperer, in his first post-Philharmonia years, could still deliver thrilling performances. I thought nothing would touch my allegiance to Boult’s very swift performance of this symphony. I shall certainly never throw my Boult away – nor Janowski, who offers a similarly urgent reading with the French timbres of the Suisse Romande and in modern SACD sound. I’m not so sure now which I will put in the CD player next time I want to revel in a really fine performance of the piece.
 
One last thing. If it’s that easy to hold the structure of the symphony together, why doesn’t everybody do it? After all, the model’s there. Well, if you could reproduce Klemperer’s colours and balance, if you could reproduce his phrasing and dynamics, and if you could inspire an orchestra to the level of fervour and conviction heard here, then I should think you could indeed reproduce his tempi too and produce a performance on this level. If you could do all those things, then paradoxically the actual tempi might prove to be the least important part of the equation.
 
Klemperer’s one foray into Dvorák, the New World Symphony, begins with big dramatic contrasts. The main allegro is a little slower than usual, but not all that much. With chirruping woodwind and a folk-like simplicity to the phrasing, every detail of the score comes across with almost pointillist transparency. No need to slow down for the flute melody at this tempo. The repeat is played, a mixed blessing considering that Dvorák scratched out the repeat in his 6th symphony, declaring “Away with these repeats for ever!”. The Largo is amply phrased but by no means the slowest one has heard. Again, Dvorák’s essential simplicity comes across. At the return of the famous cor anglais theme the sobbing halts as Dvorák pares down the orchestration to solo strings have never sounded so convincing. The scherzo is definitely slow, but with a delightful rustic lilt. There’s more of the Czech countryside than the Wild West to it. It’s actually close to Dvorák’s metronome mark, if that matters to you. More doubtful is the finale. It has grandeur, poetry and passion and Dvorák’s quotations from the earlier movements fall perfectly into place. It is possible, though, to admire everything Klemperer does while wishing he did it a little faster – a view supported in this case by the composer’s metronome mark.
 
It can be said that Klemperer’s rustic colours and openhearted warmth do not cushion the listener from Dvorák’s pastoral spirit they way Karajan’s super-plush version does. The composer’s voice is always present. My own reaction was that I had not enjoyed a performance of this symphony so much for a long time, and perhaps had not expected ever to do so again. It was a teenage infatuation of mine, yet, while I find that Dvorák’s other four mature symphonies have self-renewing properties at every new hearing, there had seemed to come a time when the New World had yielded up all its secrets. When I last heard it, in Vaclav Neumann’s very fine analogue recording, I found myself approving everything he did yet feeling I could no longer become involved in the music. Klemperer has rekindled my early enthusiasm. So if, as I did, you think this is a work with nothing more to give you, do try Klemperer. If it’s noisy excitement you crave, go elsewhere.
 
Richard Osborne’s invaluable notes tell us that Klemperer was indelibly impressed by a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony which he heard Furtwängler conduct in 1933. While Klemperer and Furtwängler usually seem poles apart, in Tchaikovsky they do share a passionate but not hysterical intensity combined with steady tempi.
 
After a portentous opening the Fourth Symphony sets up an Allegro that, while unhurried, never lets up, each climax bringing added power. The numerous contrapuntal details of Tchaikovsky’s writing are clear as under few others except Mravinsky. Elegance and smouldering passion are not neglected but neither are they wallowed in. The overwhelming impression is of an intensity that is screwed up and up till near-breaking point. The theme of the second movement is very clearly phrased, not only on the oboe but throughout, while the colourful wind interjections seem to have part in the symphonic scheme. While Klemperer’s strings rarely soar, in a few precious moments he really gives them their head. The pizzicato strummings of the third movement are not so very piano, but this means that we hear the harmonies properly for once. As so often, it is the finale runs most counter to perceived expectations. It’s slow, but immensely powerful and with such brilliance that you sometimes wonder how it could ever go faster. The “leafy birch tree” folk melody is increasingly doleful every time it reappears, while the return of the motto theme and its appalled aftermath are truly devastating. An unusual, but I think a great performance.
 
The Fifth Symphony begins with an introduction that is not slow, almost two-in-a-bar. There is practically no rubato, yet the wind solos manage to be freely expressive within the metre. The Allegro emerges in a related tempo, the new bar equalling the old half-bar. This makes it much faster than usual, but then so many conductors begin below tempo and accelerate over the first pages. This is Klemperer’s tempo and he’s sticking to it. Even the second theme is given little indulgence, yet there is an enormous range of colour. Tension builds inexorably through the development and the recapitulation slinks in naturally, without need for any manipulation. The slow movement is launched with a glorious horn solo – could this have been Alan Civil? The movement is amply built up, compassionate rather than passionate. No acceleration in the middle, the broad noble song continues till interrupted by the devastating return of the motto theme. Forward wind and concentration on inner detail mean that the most prominent melodic lines are not always the ones we are used to.
 
The third movement waltz is elegant yet expressive. The string semiquavers are not played for dazzling virtuosity – not that the Philharmonia aren’t pretty fantastic just the same – and Klemperer uncovers a lot of music that doesn’t always seem to exist here. The introduction to the finale has the motto theme at about the same tempo as was heard at the beginning of the symphony – rather broad. The main allegro follows at a related tempo, which makes it a lot slower than we usually hear, though little or no slower than Furtwängler and Mengelberg, and little or no less enthralling either. There’s a fierce, stomping dance-spirit to it. The coda seems to align the symphony to the “revisionist” interpretation of Shostakovich 5, whichKlemperer could hardly have known about back then. It is not a triumph, or rather it is not a triumph of the person “narrating” the symphony, it is a brazen triumph of mindless vacuity, of brutal armies trampling everything underfoot. The symphony’s programme thus appears in a new light. The motto theme, initially something ominously feared, invades the mind more and more as the symphony progresses, finally taking over as a victory of everything most feared. Klemperer has changed my perception of this symphony for ever.
 
The Pathétique is no less fine, but maybe closer to the norm. The first movement goes at a broad tempo and is deceptively light and balletic as the allegro begins. The second subject is wonderfully tender. The movement thereafter grows in power and stature. Yet, in spite of the colossal strength of its largest climax, Klemperer somehow manages to make you feel that this is nevertheless a first movement. With many conductors it overshadows the rest of the work.. The lopsided 5/4 waltz of the second movement is slow but elegant with a wistful middle interlude. The third movement covers in miniature the programme of the entire fifth symphony, beginning light and balletic – though I sometimes had the impression the orchestra were still getting used to playing it so slowly – with the march gradually becoming all-pervasive, concluding with a triumph of brutal ugliness. It comes as no surprise to find Klemperer emphasising the last movement as a prototype for that of Mahler 9. It is passionately built up, with the gong-stroke truly chilling, followed by a stunned, appalled requiem. It concludes a trio of great Tchaikovsky performances, though it was the one the brought the least revelation to me, leaving me the impression that Furtwängler and maybe Mengelberg had passed this way before but not in such good sound. This is perhaps the moment to say that these stereo recordings were all state-of-the-art in their day and can still be enjoyed without reservations.
 
Klemperer’s art remains perplexing. Of the performances here, I would describe as great and revelatory Schubert 9, Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” music, Schumann 1, the Weber and Johann Strauss pieces, The Berlioz, the Franck and Tchaikovsky 4 and 5, with the other Schubert, Mendelssohn 3, Schumann 4 and Manfred, the Dvorák and Tchaikovsky 6 close behind them. Indeed, only the late Schumann performances need to be approached with caution as not really indicative of the conductor’s true powers.
 
Yet, while these performances provide me with greater satisfaction than most others, can they be recommended without a string of provisos? How will they strike a person who has never heard these works before? Or what will such a person think if, weaned on Klemperer, he or she then starts going to concerts and finds the works played totally differently? It seems to me that a certain level of previous musical experience is needed in order to appreciate Klemperer’s greatness. The odd thing about this is that I don’t think Klemperer actually set out to be different, or even to imply criticism of other conductors’ different interpretations. He simply sought to give the truth as he saw it.
 
In a way Richard Osborne’s excellent booklet essay recognizes this “special case” status. He provides a knowledgeable, often fascinating exposition of the performances, with nothing about the actual music. He rightly assumes, I take it, that this set will be bought by listeners already well-informed about the works themselves.
 
I am also perplexed over another matter. If you search this website you will find that I am often more of a doubter than an admirer of Klemperer in his core repertoire. I thought his Brahms 3 a great performance - I was not so sure about the other three symphonies. His Beethoven inspires me to mixed reactions. Yet these are the works by which his reputation stands, in the common view. Strange. On this showing he was a greater conductor of Berlioz, Franck and Tchaikovsky, and indeed of Johann Strauss, than he was of Beethoven or Brahms.
 
Enough. If you are not a starter in classical music, and especially if you think that some of the popular works here have already yielded up all their secrets to you, grab this box while it’s still going. As I write, the news is arriving that EMI Classics is passing to Warner. No doubt Klemperer will always remain in the catalogue in some form or other but these massive boxes, the death throes of the EMI ancien régime, probably provide a unique opportunity for anyone who missed out on performances like these to snap them up wholesale.

Christopher Howell
 
Full track-listing
 
CD 1 [77.35]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759 Unfinished [25.13]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 4 and 6 February 1963
Symphony No. 9 in C, D944 Great [52.11]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 16-19 November 1960
 
CD 2 [78.51]
Symphony No. 5 in B flat, D485 [26.29]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 13, 15 and 16 May 1963
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
The Hebrides Overture, Op.26 [10.16]
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 15 February 1960
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op.56 Scottish [41.50]
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 22, 25 and 27 January 1960
 
CD 3 [76.28]
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Overture op.21 and Incidental Music (selection) op.61 [48.55]
with Heather Harper (soprano), Janet Baker (mezzo), Philharmonia Chorus
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 28-29 January and 16 February 1960
Symphony No. 4 in A, Op.90 Italian [27.22]
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 15, 17 and 19 February 1960
 
CD 4 [76.48]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 1 in B flat, Op.38 Spring [35.36]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 21-23, 25 and 27 October 1965
Symphony No. 2 in C, Op.61 [41.08]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 3, 5 and 6 October 1968
 
CD 5 [77.11]
Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op.97 Rhenish [38.55]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 5-8 February 1969
Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op.120 [28.25]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 4-5 May 1960
Scenes from Goethe’s Faust , WoO 3: Overture [9.38]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 8 February 1969
 
CD 6 [79.02]
Genoveva, Op.81: Overture [9.52]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 7 October 1968
Manfred, Op.115: Overture [12.30]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 21-23, 25 and 27 October 1965
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Der Freischütz, J277: Overture [9.37]
Euryanthe, J291: Overture [8.53]
Oberon, J306: Overture [9.34]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 5-6 May and 28 September 1960
Johann STRAUSS I (1825-1899)
Die Fledermaus (1894): Overture [8.36]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 30 October and 2 November 1961
Wiener Blut, Op.354 [8.32]
Kaiserwalzer, Op.437 [10.54]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 20 October 1961
 
CDs 7-8 [75.07 + 67.17]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Symphonie Fantastique, Op.14 [57.06]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 23-26 April and 17-18 September 1963
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphony in D minor (1888) [39.26]*
rec. Abbey Road Studio No 1, London, 10-12 and 14-15 February 1966
Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op.95 From the New World [45.38]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 30-31 October and 1-2 November 1963
 
CDs 9-10 [62.38 + 75.10]
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op.36 [44.01]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 23-25 January and 2 February 1963
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op.64 [45.52]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 16-19 and 21 January 1963
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op.74 Pathétique [47.33]
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 18-20 October 1961
 
Philharmonia Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra*


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