4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Michael B. Richman
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For the most part, I have resisted buying titles in the BBC Legends series -- even us serious collectors have to draw the line somewhere, or we'll never listen to anything more than once! However, I have made a few exceptions such as Van Beinum's London performances of Beethoven Symphonies 2 & 7, Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony and Mussorgsky/Ravel's "Pictures at an Exhibition" with Carlo Maria Giulini (see my reviews for both), and this title preserving The Otto Klemperer Memorial Concert. On January 14, 1974 at Royal Festival Hall in London, the New Philharmonia Orchestra celebrated the life and music of the great conductor by performing Mozart's Masonic Funeral Music and one of his signature pieces, Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Good friend and esteemed colleague Rafael Kubelik was handed the baton for this tribute. The Mozart is lovely and sets the tone for the "Choral," which is played at a quicker pace than Klemperer may have chosen himself, particularly in his later years. But there is something about Kubelik's choice that for me honors Klemp's past readings and celebrates the man's life as a whole. It isn't the greatest account ever and the stereo sound is average, but in all it was a worthwhile purchase. I will certainly continue to pick and choose through the BBC Legends catalog for that rare concert event that captures my imagination, particularly when it is such an historic occasion as this.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Santa Fe Listener
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Here is a chance to hear and possibly redeem a famous failure, On the death of Otto Klemperer, whose Beethoven was considered the standard in London, the choice of Rafael Kubleik wasn't a natural -- for one thing, he wasn't particularly noted or distinguished in Beethoven. For whatever reason, the critics were not pleased, and a shadow hung over Kubleik's reputation (I'm recalling tis form memory, so anyone who stands closer to the event should feel free to correct me). As reissued here, the sound is good for the Masonic Funeral Music, taken at a flowing pace considerably slower and more funereally than Klemperer's recording of it, and holds up well enough for the massive Beethoven Ninth.
The 'choral" Sym. is the main event, and I imagine the negative reaction came form Kubelik's moderation; he is neither fast nor slow, heavy nor light, deeply committed nor superficial. Yet you could attribute the unflattering side of each pair if what you wanted was Klemperer (or Beethoven) storming the heaves. I've read good reviews of Ninths from Previn, Leinsdorf, Maazel, Wand et al. that are just as indifferently performed. But Kubelik was the wrong man in the wrong place; he redeems himself in a live reading on Orfeo that I found quite powerful. (In any event, BBC Legends offers only a single recording from a conductor who must have appeared in the UK dozens of times.)
Things pick up for a lively Scherzo, although I do't think it lives up to the marking of Molto vivace. For a conductor famed for his slowness, Klemperer actually followed Toscanini's lead in the great Adagio, with a much faster pace than Furtwangler would have recognized. At 16 min., Kubelik certainly isn't pausing for meditative effect, so perhaps the shade of Klemperer was smiling that night, at least once. Still, there's a lack of intensity and commitment that makes this movement as nondescript as the rest. Despite spurts of excitement, the finale is nothing special, either the best thing being a good vocal quartet, as follows:
Margaret Price, soprano
Yvonne Minton, mezzo-soprano
Werner Hollweg, tenor
Norman Bailey, bass
Praise goes especially to the outstanding Norman Bailey, Britain's best Wagner bass, for his powerfully delivered solo -- you feel that Wotan is in the house. Too bad that the miking is a bit distant and shrill for the vocalists. The chorus is so woolly-sounding that not a word of German can be clearly made out. IN all, I'm sure that tis was an evening best forgotten, and BBC Legends' decision to exhume it wasn't a nice gesture.