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Recommended by the World's Foremost Authority on the Music of Mahler,
This review is from: Mahler: Symphonies 2, 4, 7 & 9; Das Lied von der Erde (Audio CD)
"Gustav Mahler recommends Herr Klemperer as an outstanding musician who despite his youth is already experienced and is predestined for the career of conductor.
He vouches for the successful outcome of a probationary appointment and is willing personally to provide further information."
In 1905 in Berlin, twenty year-old Otto Klemperer made his professional debut as a conductor.
The work was Mahler's 2nd, the "Resurrection Symphony".
The composer was in the audience.
After the concert, Mahler congratulated Klemperer on his performance.
Two years later, Mahler wrote a letter of recommendation that secured Klemperer's first professional appointment.
Actually, Klemperer only conducted 2% of this Symphony. The other 98% was conducted by Oskar Fried.
Fried engaged young Klemperer to conduct the off-stage band in the finale. *
You have to start somewhere.
Otto Klemperer had a life-long obsession with the music of Mahler, particularly the "Resurrection Symphony".
Between 1950 and 1971, he left us with eight recordings.
Amazingly enough, Klemperer holds the record as both the fastest and the slowest conductor of this symphony on record - timings from Peter Fulop's 'Mahler Discography':
67:04 = 1950 Sydney Symphony Orchestra broadcast - Fastest performance ever. A harrowing experience: Otto Klemperer Discoveries Vol. 1: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection"
70:51 = 1951 Amsterdam Concertgebouw broadcast with Kathleen Ferrier - Also a harrowing experience, less insane than the Australian performance: Mahler: Resurrection Symphony
75:35 = 1951 Vienna Symphony, studio recording - Still really fast, but a bit more reasonable: Sym 2/Das Lied Von Der Erde
79-80 minutes = 1962-65: Four performances on the fast side, but not unreasonably so:
Philharmonia (EMI studio recording in this box) + broadcasts by
Vienna Philharmonic: Symphony 2 / Resurrection - or - Klemperer conducts Mahler
Philharmonia: Mahler: Symphony No. 2 'Resurrection'; Mozart: Symphony No. 29
Bavarian Radio: Mahler: Symphony No. 2
98:50 = 1971 New Philharmonia broadcast - Slowest performance on record - used to be on LP, but has not been issued on CD. The only one I don't own. Aargh!
Klemperer's EMI recording times in at 80:10. This is actual elapsed time, not the printed time.
In 1990, EMI wanted to issue it on one CD, but 80 minute CDs were not possible with the technology of the time, so EMI engineers speeded up the tape.
Digital technology makes this possible without altering the pitch.
Just enough for a CD that timed in at 79:18 (thanks to J.M. Hughes for this inside information).
This dubious procedure was repeated for the 2000 EMI Great Recordings of the Century release.
So this box is the first appearance of Klemperer's EMI Mahler 2nd on CD at the correct speed.
As such it is an essential purchase for any serious Mahlerian.
The four Klemperer performances from 1962-65 are essentially the same conception.
The Bavarian Radio broadcast is marginally more intense than the EMI studio performance.
It was also well-recorded in stereo, but the EMI studio recording is unbeatable for clarity and warmth (recorded in Kingsway Hall).
Perhaps inspired by the need to remaster the 2nd Symphony, EMI also commissioned new remasterings of Symphonies 4, 7, 9 and Das Lied von der Erde.
This is the only volume in the new Klemperer Edition that has had such extensive work.
It was worth the effort.
I find all transfers preferable in clarity and warmth to previous attempts.
One caveat: My ears are 64 years old (ditto the rest of me) and I am probably not the best judge of fine gradations of sound.
Klemperer's strings were seated in an arc: First Violins, Basses, Cellos, Violas, Second Violins.
Not all violins scrunched together on the left, and lower strings on the right, which you will hear with Bernstein, Karajan and Solti.
Their 20th Century seating arrangement has become almost universal, but Klemperer's is the orchestra that Mahler was familiar with.
Klemperer's old-fashioned seating plan makes the conductor's job a lot harder.
Worth the effort. **
Nowadays, thanks to an unfriendly neighbor and a dog who demands three walks a day, I have been doing most of my listening on headphones.
The 2nd movement Landler of the 9th Symphony seems to have been composed with headphones in mind.
Give it a try (in Klemperer's recording).
Mahler's 7th Symphony has never appealed to me.
Interestingly, Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer shared my opinion (they also avoided Symphonies 3, 6 and 8 - I am incredulous).
Symphony 7 seems like a let-down after the the raw emotion of Symphony 6.
Late in life, Klemperer reconsidered the 7th Symphony and left us with a really weird (meaning SLOW) recording of the work.
I still don't get the first four movements, but have come to an appreciation of the 5th movement (CD 4, track 1).
This movement has nothing in common with with the rest of the symphony.
It seems like a throw-back to the world of the First Symphony.
All fanfares, chorales and peasant dances.
Its actually quite vulgar, but I now find it invigorating.
Klemperer's slow pace actually brings out the vulgarity more than Bernstein's streamlined reading.
One curiosity: After the initial drumroll and brass chorale, there is (at 1:05) a theme that sounds for all the world like a Broadway showtune.
I only noticed this in Klemperer's recording.
My only complaint is the absence of texts and translations for the vocal works.
Predictable with these bargain boxes.
All serious Mahlerians need to own the recordings by Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Oskar Fried and Willem Mengelberg. ***
They were part of Mahler's inner circle for the last ten years of his life (he died in 1911).
USELESS MAHLER TRIVIA:
The new Bach-Haydn box in the EMI Klemperer Edition, Bach, Rameau, Handel, Gluck & Haydn includes a Mahler rarity.
Christoph Willibald Gluck's Overture to Iphiginie en Aulide (1774) was re-orchestrated by Wagner in 1847.
The Gluck-Wagner overture was popular in the first half of the Twentieth Century.
Furtwangler, Mengelberg, Richard Strauss and Bruno Walter all conducted it.
I believe Klemperer's is the only recording in stereo.
According to the booklet notes, Klemperer conducted a version with further revisions by Gustav Mahler.
This was done in 1907, when Klemperer was part of Mahler's inner circle.
I don't think it's been published.
Apparently this is the world premiere recording of the Gluck-Wagner-Mahler Overture to Iphigenie en Aulide.
Its a monster.
2012 for Symphonies 2, 4 and 9.
2011 for Symphony 7 and Das Lied von der Erde.
1999 for five songs with Christa Ludwig (the GROC remastering).
* In 1924 Oskar Fried recorded Mahler's "Resurrection Symphony" with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra: The Music Of Gustav Mahler
This was the first ever recording of a Mahler symphony. Its an acoustic recording.
A reduced orchestra and chorus were crammed into a room facing a giant horn (no microphones).
No such luxury as an off-stage band this time, so Klemperer wasn't needed.
Hard to listen to, but worth the effort.
** Leopold Stokowski is credited with devising the modern seating plan with massed violins on the left.
Stokowski liked the richer string sound that resulted when the f-holes of both violin sections were facing the audience.
This is not as lewd as it sounds.
The f-holes are two f-shaped holes on the top of the violin.
They serve to focus and project the sound coming from the interior of the instrument.
Violinists seated to the left of the conductor hold their instruments at a 45 degree angle toward the audience.
Those to the right hold their instruments at a 45 degree angle away from the audience (unless they're left-handed, then no problem).
Sacrificing clarity for fullness of tone: the "Philadelphia Sound."
This new system also made it easier for musicians to stay together, and Twentieth century conductors came increasingly to adopt it
(bot not Toscanini or Furtwangler, both of whom passed away before stereo could document their divided violins).
Contemporaries of Klemperer who remained loyal to divided violins in the stereo age included Monteux, Boult, Bohm, Kubelik and Bruno Walter.
But their recordings never enjoyed the combination of detail and weight of tone that Otto Klemperer's did.
Klemperer benefited from the synergy of the Philharmonia Orchestra, producer Walter Legge, the EMI engineering staff, and London's Kingsway Hall.
[Fritz Reiner's earliest Chicago Symphony stereo recordings had divided violins, but by 1957 he had given up and adopted massed violins on the left].
*** Bruno Walter recorded Symphonies 1, 2, 4, 5, 9 and Das Lied von der Erde in multiple performances for EMI, Decca and Columbia (Sony)
Mengelberg recorded the Adagietto of the 5th Symphony in 1926: Great Conductors - Mengelberg , and a complete broadcast of the 4th Symphony in 1939 (once available on Philips, it can still be found on some smaller labels).
P.S. In case you haven't noticed, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Not debilitating, but my need to know every detail can get out of hand.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 May 2013 19:36:52 BDT
J. M. Hughes says:
When Klemperer's Mahler 2 was originally issued on CD, a friend who worked in the A&R department at EMI quietly told me that the remastering engineers had actually speeded up the tapes slightly to squeeze the performance on to a single disc lasting around 79 minutes! This explains the difference in timings between older issues and the latest one.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2013 21:00:59 BDT
Interesting. This makes sense. Is it OK if I quote you in my review?
In reply to an earlier post on 14 May 2013 17:57:54 BDT
I posted the revised review.
Posted on 16 May 2013 04:42:38 BDT
D. Score says:
Fascinating how I can get a learned discussion of the timings of Klemperer's conducting of Mahler, and yet if I want to see what exactly is on each of the 6 disks in this set, that, unfortunately is not available to me, here, or anywhere else, apparently, on the web.
In reply to an earlier post on 16 May 2013 12:09:07 BDT
Symphonies 2 (soloists Elizabeth Schwarzkopf & Hilde Rossl-Majdan), 4 (Schwarzkopf) 7 and 9.
Das Lied von der Erde (Christa Ludwig & Fritz Wunderlich)
Five songs (Christa Ludwig):
Ruckert Lieder: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen / Um Mitternacht / Ich atmet' einen linden Duff.
Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Das Irdische Leben / Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen
In reply to an earlier post on 16 May 2013 13:41:57 BDT
Over and Out. says:
EMI engineers "speeded up" the master tapes? It's news to me! I'll have to order the set... I have the original releases, the remasters and the French EMI edition box-set of these symphonies - don't ask! One thing is for certain, EMI knows how to take money from gullible punters' pockets - cough!
In reply to an earlier post on 27 May 2013 21:33:55 BDT
James Walters says:
it's hard not to be disturbed by the scandal of speeding up the mastertape in the earlier pressings and inevitably one worries if this was an isolated incident. Norman Lebrecht should be alerted.
Posted on 18 Jul 2013 02:50:48 BDT
Since you are OCD, can you compare this release with the Klemperer box from EMI France Mahler: Symphonies 2, 4, 7, 9; Lieder (Emi France) released in 2011?
In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jul 2013 12:25:37 BDT
Sorry. In addition living with OCD, I'm also living on a pension.
Maybe someone who already owns the French set can post the (actual) timings for the 2nd Symphony?