ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Klemperer Legacy
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano); John Alldis Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
CATALOGUE NO: (see text for catalogue numbers) ADD Reissue (1955-72)
Otto Klemperer’s musical aura is a potent one: no other conductor quite duplicates his forceful but Apollonian clarity. Occasionally this approach seems thoroughly united with the demands of the music. Klemperer’s craggy but flowing way with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony (CDM 5 67338 2), for example, creates an unusually satisfying vision of the work. But more often Klemperer’s powerful musical personality goes against the grain of either the music or traditional ways of conceiving of it. The sheer energy and rhythmic integrity he invests in Schubert’s Great C major Symphony on the same disc is admirable, but especially in the finale he holds the last degree of emotional impact at arm’s length through unswervingly consistent treatment of tempo and rhythm. Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique is even more thoroughly objectified (CDM 5 67336 2), and bristly dynamics limit possibilities for repose in Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony (CDM 5 67330 2).
Mozart occupies nearly half of this final instalment in The Klemperer Legacy, with mixed success. The conductor unleashes ferocious passion and energy in the ‘little’ G minor Symphony (K183) and (to equally exhilarating if less obviously appropriate effect) the A major (K201) (CDM 5 67331 2). The searing, urgently lyrical reading of the Masonic Funeral Music is another highlight (CDM 5 67332 2). But the big G minor Symphony (K550) (CDM 5 67333 2) sounds oddly underplayed, and the perfunctory nature of the closing chords in the first movement of the Jupiter Symphony (CDM 5 67334 2) encourages hindsight to notice that the whole movement has been rather strait-laced. The Beethoven disc with Daniel Barenboim as pianist offers a sleepy Emperor Concerto and a bracingly engaged Choral Fantasy (CDM 5 67329 2). Other worthy performances include Schumann’s Fourth Symphony (with the Tchaikovsky) and Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (CDM 5 67335 2). Apart from the essential Schubert disc, however, my favourite is an intriguing programme of 20th-century works (CDM 5 67337 2): Hindemith’s Nobilissima visione suite – in one of Klemperer’s first encounters with the Philharmonia – and mordantly played accounts of Klemperer’s own droll Merry Waltz, Weill’s Kleine Dreigroschenmusik and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. Such performances can only come from a conductor whose legacy deserves EMI’s handsome tribute.