Carlos Kleiber is something of a recluse when
it comes to public display of his many talents. TDK is to be congratulated
in making this very satisfying film available to the general music
lover. It was made some time ago, (1970), when the conductor was
only some 40 years young. Son of the famous Erich Kleiber, Carlos
has had a glittering career, even more so since he intentionally
restricts his appearances, making it an even bigger event when
he does actually appear. He was born in Berlin in 1930, and when
his father resigned from his position of Music Director of the
German State Opera in Berlin in 1935, the Kleiber family emigrated
to Argentina. He had much of his education there and in Chile.
In 1949, he moved to Zurich to study chemistry, but music took
over, and he returned to Buenos Aires in 1950 to continue with
his music studies. At this time, his mentors were Arturo Toscanini,
Fritz Busch and Bruno Walter. He began conducting at the theatre
in La Plata in 1952. He then moved to Europe and held various
posts in a number of German regional opera houses until 1978.
There were a few guest conducting engagements but he limited these
to the absolute minimum. His guest appearances have included Chicago,
San Francisco, New York, Edinburgh and London.
He was also the prime candidate to succeed Herbert
von Karajan in Berlin, but he declined this position. The current
intervals between his concerts are to be measured in years, rather
than the usual weeks or months. So it is a considerable scoop
for TDK to allow us to eavesdrop on one of his rehearsal sessions.
This disc is particularly successful as although the two pieces
involved are both relatively short, we also get to hear the results
of the rehearsal in concert – something that many rehearsal discs
do not do.
Kleiber’s rehearsal style is to dissect a work
into tiny pieces, rehearse these, and then put them back together
to make the complete work. It must be an extremely tiring experience
for the orchestra, but the marvel is, that as the rehearsal continues,
you can hear the performance growing to its full potential. Rather
than becoming switched off, the players become more and more committed
to what they are doing as the rehearsal progresses.
His reputation as a stickler for perfection is
well known. He has been known to lay down his baton, storm out
and head for the airport at the merest hint of discord or trouble.
London concert promoters have yet to forgive a music critic whose
negative reviews of Kleiber’s London appearances caused him to
operate what is now a 23 year embargo on appearing in London.
At Covent Garden, for example, he demanded seventeen rehearsals
of La Bohème, six of which were for the orchestra alone.
He appears over-sensitive and very reserved to
outsiders, but put him in front of an orchestra and the change
is extraordinary. He described a melody in the Strauss as "This
is highly perfumed. A beautiful woman – with long legs. She is
looking down on us just a little. But that makes her all the more
delightful." The orchestral musicians smile but know exactly
what he is looking for and translate the image into sound. In
many treatises on conducting, it is often said "do not waste
time talking to the orchestra – they know better than the conductor
just what is required." Maybe so, but here is the exception
that proves the rule – an enthralling disc.
The film is shot in black and white, with mono
sound, but after about a few minutes, this is no longer a problem,
so gripping is the material.