Great Conductors: Otto Klemperer = BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68; Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80; WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde–Prelude to Act I; Siegfried Idyll – Berlin State Opera Orchestra/Otto Klemperer – Naxos Historical

by | Mar 12, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Great Conductors: Otto Klemperer = BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68; Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80; WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde–Prelude to Act I; Siegfried Idyll – Berlin State Opera Orchestra/Otto Klemperer

Naxos Historical 8.111274,  80:28  (Not Distr. in the USA) ****:

These early (1927-1928) recordings by Otto Klemperer (1885-1973) as restored by Mark Obert-Thorn testify to a more flexible, athletic, and leaner version of the conductor than his later, monumental–even stolid–style suggests. Always concerned with classical architecture in music as he was in what pianist Leon Fleisher calls “a sense of the transcendent,” Klemperer already eschewed the overly romantic, sentimental methods of Mengelberg and Pfitzner, with their forced portamenti and erratic rubatos.

While the first recording of the Brahms C Minor went to Weingartner, Klemperer’s electrical recording on Parlophone (15, 20 December 1927-3 February, 26-27 June 1928), though spread out over several month, reveals a decided singularity of vision, from the desolate opening Un poco sostenuto to the grandly heroic Allegro of the first movement. The Adagio possesses a mystical flair, a slow, unhurried breadth and spacing of notes rife with a measured rubato that imbues the movement with a sense of lost pageantry. Anyone hearing this version is likely to credit its romantic ardor to period Stokowski. The Allegretto pushes a bit hard, slightly manic, but still suffused with song and unhurried, andante figures at the outer sections. Klemperer’s is a rather subdued approach to the storm and stress that opens the last movement, integrating the pizzicati and horn solo, along with the trombone motif, into one raging stew; and only reluctantly allowing the spirit of optimism to shine through the dispersed gloom. The witches’ cauldron achieves a feisty momentum on its way to the triumphant coda; and, despite the sonic limits of hissy acetates, we have a vivid performance with which to reckon.

The Academic Festival Overture (23 June 1927) combines a steady, even ominous tread with lithe, frantically mocking college songs, quite inflamed at times, well beyond the limited scope of one’s campus ambitions. A virtuoso performance, really, quite in the Mengelberg tradition, the soaring melodic line impressively spacious. The Tristan Prelude (23 June 1927) is the composer’s 1859 version, complete in itself, without tonal recourse to the familiar Liebestod. Taken from Electrola records, Tristan derives from a single session for German HMV, the sound opulent and bright, quite focused on the cello line and its accompanying arco and pizzicato strings. Mystical longing rings out, thick enough to be cut with a cleaver. The rarely heard concert ending contains several lovely passages not given common currency–anticipatory of the Liebestod–and these alone cover the price of admission.  Finally, a 1927 Siegfried Idyll of gentle demeanor, a chamber music, intimate setting that rocks with the waters of Lake Lucerne. A moment or two of passionate illumination, but the prevailing ethos wants quiet raptures, bucolic and ardently demure. 

–Gary Lemco
47313 32742

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