Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars Usually scorned, 9 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, 'scottish' (Audio CD)
This disc is often dismissed by reviewers on two grounds - a) it's mono and from the early fifties b) The Scottish symphony's last two movements are not conducted by Klemperer. In fact, Klemperer's breach with Vox came partly because of b. Ironically, the guiding spirit at Vox at the time was none other than a certain Felix(later correction: my fault - NOT Felix, but GEORGE de) Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who was following an ancient practice of the recording industry in fielding a substitute conductor when the headline figure was not available and publishing the recording under his name anyway. Among folk who were involved in similar dodges in the past were Szell for Richard Strauss, and Seidler-Winkler for Beecham, not to mention the now admitted role of Craft in many of the stereo Stravinsky recordings issued under the composer's own name. Vox now admit, discreetly and almost illegibly, that the substitute was Professor Herbert Haefner, a Vox conductor in Vienna, who recorded other items under his own name, including Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle", for the label. His contribution suggests the players were using Klemperer's parts, but there is a distinct lack of conviction about the playing. Which is a pity, because in tempo and phrasing the first two movements are much the best of Klemperer's three surviving attempts at this score, and since we know from them that he integrated his tempi across all four movements, for example taking his tempo for the finale from the scherzo, and the coda of the finale from the introduction to the first movement, there's a chance that it might have been a considerable success. The slower you get in this work, the more of a problem the coda becomes, and Klemperer eventually composed a completely new one. The Philharmonia recording is markedly slower throughout, and its coda doesn't work - though it's not alone in that. Karajan accelerates, which is not what Mendelssohn wanted, and Weingartner cuts part of it. Few conductors have ever quite mastered the work. Apart from Maag, I would say say only Bruno Maderna ( in a public performance which seems not to have been issued on disc, and very differently) got it completely right.

The "Italian" frankly doesn't have the originality of the Philharmonia recording's Andante, which is simply a miracle of balance and concentration, once heard, never forgotten. But it does have the first movement repeat, still a rarity, and the finale is very fast indeed, completely overturning the conventional Klemperer stereotype. The sound can be made to approach at least the standard for the early 1950s by taming the treble. For all the compromises, this is a disc which is not without interest for students of the recording industry and Klemperer in particular. In his later years, Klemperer's rehearsals were often taken by Reginald Goodall. Now there's a thought.......
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