Beethoven, Mozart: Masonic Funeral Music

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Mozart
WORKS: Masonic Funeral Music
PERFORMER: Margaret Price (soprano), Yvonne Minton (mezzo-soprano), Werner Hollweg (tenor), Norman Bailey (bass); New Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus/Rafael Kubelík
When the New Philharmonia Orchestra presented a memorial concert for its conductor (and saviour) Otto Klemperer at the Royal Festival Hall in January 1974, Beethoven’s Choral Symphony was an obvious main item for the programme, and Klemperer’s long-time friend and colleague Rafael Kubelík an inspired choice as conductor. Not that Kubelík attempted to replicate Klemperer’s interpretation: his tempi are consistently faster than Klemperer’s speeds in his later years, the slow movement in particular moving forward with easy grace. But, with the orchestra displaying all the strength and fierceness it had acquired under Klemperer, and a rousing contribution in the finale from an operatic solo quartet and the excellent New Philharmonia Chorus, the performance has a power and gravity appropriate to the occasion. Tully Potter’s useful note says that the solemn Mozart Masonic Funeral Music preceded the Beethoven without applause, but that the pause was marred by coughing. Perhaps wisely, this transfer ‘fades to black’ between the two works; but coughs do occur elsewhere, disfiguring the well-judged broadcast balance. If only for that reason, this is hardly likely to become a first-choice Beethoven Ninth. But it is well worth hearing, and admirers of Kubelík will certainly want it in their collection. Anthony Burton