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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Perfect: Consummate., 15 May 2010
This review is from: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7 (Audio CD)
Kleiber successfully, and it seems without undue fuss, elevated himself out of the realms of the ordinary and then out of the realms of the extraordinary. Quite where he landed is hard to say. His isolation and the lack of recordings made and performances given add very much to the mystique surrounding him and make it perhaps a little more guess work in assessing his overall legacy. Prominent musicians give him superlative accolades. Placido Domingo and Ricardo Muti both rated him as the most supremely talented conductor of the 20th Century. It seems safe to say a couple of things. He was a most unusual talent and a most unusual man. Nowhere is this more apparent than in these recordings; they are so complete as to be somehow disconcerting. How can it be that a chemist can come along and provide an interpretation of these classical music landmarks of such poise, stature and sublimely controlled power as to make the efforts of, for example, Bernstein and Karajan seem lacking? Because this is what it does.

Domingo said of Kleiber that he read music like no other. He came to the beginning of rehearsals with a vision of what was to be played, which was in a sense consummate. His attention to detail was legendary and interesting to observe. At times it had an almost obsessive character. The lengths he went to in order to get what he required could have a very eccentric appearance. His fees were enormous. He would demand up to 10 times the rehearsal time with his orchestras than was usual. He would take the scores for the entire orchestra and remark them all, including comments for individual musicians like "smile". Unusual, even strange. Vaguely reminiscent, perhaps of Bobby Fischer's famous fixation with the size of the squares on the chess board. The disconcerting thing in all this, is that there was very obviously a method in the `madness', and the method produced results that can fairly be said to defy belief.

The qualities that one always associates with Beethoven, those which have secured him his stature, are apparent in these recordings like in no others I know. Many conductors have put their slant on this music. Each chooses to accentuate certain aspects of it. The all-pervasive Karajan is a case in point. His strict, powerful and no-nonsense approach lends itself very well, especially to the 7th. Some of the muscle is, though, achieved through an over-reliance on the brass section. Played side by side, Kleiber's recordings do not in my opinion lack a single measure of the power of Karajan. Kleiber, though sacrifices none of the depth of natural tones of the woodwind in achieving this. Karajan is generally no dawdler. Kleiber's insistence on maintaining Beethoven's prescribed tempo is well-documented. This, too, is achieved without a hint of sacrifice of quality of sound or detail and expression. This I think is what separates Kleiber's recordings: they reflect the full arsenal of Beethoven's composing genius without detriment to any single aspect. They have the contemplative beauty and lyricism, without loss of power. The motifs and themes are clear and exact. If there are some interpretations that border on perfect, these transcend such; they border on the consummate.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 May 2010 15:25:38 BDT
I think this review helpful because of its perceptive analysis and the information regarding the conductor; the high recommendation of the recording fully justified.
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