PAUL KLETZKI: Orchestral Variations; Third Symphony “In memoriam” – Bamberger Symphony-Baverian Philharmonic/ Thomas Rösner – Musiques Suisses MGB CD 6272, 60:54 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Paul Kletzki, born in Poland in 1900 as Pawel Kletzki, was one of the more itinerant of the Golden Age conductors after WWII. He was also one of the most successful young composers in Germany before the Second World War. During the 1920s his compositions were championed by Toscanini and Furtwängler. The latter invited Kletzki to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1925; by the end of 1932, Kletzki had become its chief guest conductor. Along with his conducting career, all Kletzki’s compositions, which were published by major houses like Simrock and Breitkopf, fell to the Nazis; all the printed copies were destroyed and the printing plates melted down. Fleeing to Italy, Kletzki took printed and manuscript copies of his music with him, then had to leave them behind again when he fled Italy and settled in Switzerland. In 1965 a construction crew working near La Scala in Milan found the metal trunk in which Kletzki had placed his music, but he was never to open it, afraid that, having lost his music once, it might have been destroyed a second time by nature. It was only after his death in 1973 that his music has been rediscovered.
The Orchestral Variations from 1929 (they received their world premiere by Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic) are tonally rugged and powerful, engrossing and masterfully written, rich in echoes of the German Romantic legacy, inspiring and somehow familiar without feeling at all derivative. The Third Symphony, written in 1939, dedicated to Madame Olga Oboussier, a wealthy woman who had purchased music paper for the destitute refugee, is a massive musical document of remembrance and indictment, full of fugues and sonata form. It could be “in memoriam” for Kletzki’s family, the Jewish people, the German musical legacy; he never said. The fact that he did not receive confirmation that his mother, father and sister had died in the Holocaust until 1946 makes the music’s impact even more telling.
Led by Thomas Rösner, the performances by the curiously-named Bamberger Symphoniker-Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie, who have in recent years recorded major Mahler and Schubert cycles with their music director Jonathan Nott, show them fully capable of being no less compelling in more obscure repertoire. The impressively full-range sound, recorded in the Symphony’s Joseph Keilberth Saal (named after the orchestra’s first principal conductor) and a co-production with the Bavarian Radio in Munich, would be perfect for demonstrating large systems.