It’s fortuitous that
I should be able to review two Unfinished
Symphonies presided over, two decades
apart, by that most underrated and elegant
of conductors, Paul Kletzki. The earlier
recording was a commercial set, made
for Walter Legge in London. It has now
re-appeared in the context of a Guild
Kletzki symphony brace (see review)
Over twenty years had elapsed before
his final concert tour of the Soviet
Union and this must have been pretty
much his last concert there in the fearful
year of 1968.
Listening to his performance
leads me merely to reprise the comments
I made about his Abbey Road, 1946 performance
- polished control and eloquence with
phrasing that is always affectionate.
Kletzki pays attention to detail and,
as a good former orchestral leader,
encourages a strongly singing tone from
the strings. There’s not quite the same
burnished quality to the string tone
but of course this was a concert performance.
Over the intervening two decades it
would have been odd – doctrinaire, rigid,
perplexing – had certain features of
his approach not modulated or softened.
One such was his approach to the Andante
where the modifying instruction con
moto was very much more closely
observed than in 1946. It does subtly
shift the axis of the symphony and represents
a more precise, less romanticised approach.
There are two other
works preserved here, though presumably
at the concert there was a concerto
or another symphony or a tone poem.
Oberon goes with assured refinement
and fine balance. And then there’s the
Tragic Overture where we find
once more that Kletzki really was a
thoroughly sane, practical and intelligent
Brahmsian. He encourages a surging string
tone even in the more strenuous pages
though the tubby brass playing needs
to be absorbed rather than rejected
to get the most from the performance.
As regards a few of his contemporaries,
and in strictly tempo terms, he is pitched
half way between the terse vitality
(yes!) of Knappertsbusch and the more
measured approaches of Abendroth and
There are two demerits.
The first is the timing, a mere 46 minutes.
The second is the English text in the
booklet which, not to put too fine a
point on it, is an absurdity way, way
beyond Supraphon School of ‘74. Fedor
Sofronov deserves better. But if he
thinks Georges Sebastian was German
he needs a New Yorker fact checker
at his side.
So – fine playing and
an auspicious, well recorded concert.
I have to say though that only Kletzki
admirers would really be satisfied with
the short playing time.