Given the cult status of conductor Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004), some collectors will gravitate to this embarrassingly short CD for its musical splendors. The live performance from the Bavarian National Theater, 3 May 1982, captures in vivid color-detail the frenetic and lyrical energy Kleiber could usher from a responsive orchestra when the Muse was upon him. The consonance in the Bavarian strings and horns in the opening Vivace bears an electric current, quite palpable. In surround sound, the presence of the intertwined choirs and energized antiphons overwhelms one with aural particulars. Transitions in winds punctuated by the tympani weave an elastic web back to the dominant rhythmic impulse. By the time the gallop is over, one’s head is disconnected, and the orphic metaphor is consummated.
The tragic Allegretto is splendidly vocal, even hushed. Dynamic adjustments, degrees of pianissimo, will remind auditors of Toscanini’s magisterial control–or even of the conductor’s father, Erich. The tempo accelerates even as the dynamics decrescendo for the fugato. The Scherzo is less convulsive than it is eminently lyrical, and the trio section has what might pass as a cosmic or transcendental repose. When tutti and tympani play forte, the effect is huge. We have Erich Kleiber’s discipline and Wilhelm Furtwaengler’s vital mysticism. The last movement delivers the expected whirlwind in spades; but it, too, savors the lyrical moments as oases in the midst of a raging torrent of sound. To call this realization of the Allegro con brio, with its smashing tympani “Dionysiac,” seems a hearty understatement. Collectors will make healthy comparisons to Beecham and the aforementioned Toscanini, but Kleiber’s is a mania all his own. The lines are either molten lava or Bavarian cream, but the brew is Beethoven’s own. Zowie!