comes from Columbia 33CX 1346. The presence of the sound carried
in the grooves of the LP is well transferred across to compact
disc by restoration engineer Mark Obert-Thorn. This is actually
almost the same programme as the EMI GROC issue reviewed by
Christopher Howell on this site in August
2002; here we have Leonore Overtures 1 and 3; there
it was 1 and 2.
The sheer weight of the first movement seems
to be a reflection of its own internal, natural force. There
is no exposition repeat; it is almost as if it were impossible
to go back. Dissonances are relayed for all they are worth,
making the famous climax prior to the “E minor” theme all the
more awe-inspiring. If the acoustic sounds a bit swimmy for
the first horn solo around the 9-10 minute mark, it is generally
in fine focus. Detail is lovingly preserved, so that one gets
to hear woodwind parts lost in many “more advanced” recent recordings.
The Adagio assai is, as CH suggests, faster
than one might expect at first. It is also exquisitely shaded,
with the Philharmonia strings rich and sonorous. Fugal work
- around seven minutes - is marked by the unstoppability of
lava flow. The sound is everywhere, and nowhere more so than
in this movement built from the bass upwards. It is as if the
sound is both tied to the earth and coming from it. The sheer
quality of the playing from all sections of the orchestra is
little short of miraculous. The same comment goes for the Scherzo.
No nimble-footed sprite, this, more a behemoth on uppers. The
horn trio is superbly played - just a pity they sound a little
The opening to the finale blazes. No mere introduction,
this, but a clear statement of intent that casts its shadow
over the unfolding variations. And unfold they do, with an inevitability
and structural grasp that enable Klemperer to hold to his tempo.
In lesser hands this would merely sound pretentiously ponderous.
The great horn entry at 8:55 is the only moment I question –
it hits you like a punch in the stomach and is so sudden it
almost, but not quite, takes away the over-riding grandeur.
Comparing this account of the mighty “Eroica”
to the Karajan/Philharmonia is to compare two interpretations
both of giant stature. Karajan’s cycle was recorded November
1951-July 1955 in the same hall with the same orchestra – EMI
5 5158632. Perhaps Klemperer wins out. His is the more noble,
and in both the EMI and Naxos Historical versions I prefer the
sound accorded to Klemperer. But I would not do without the
bargain Karajan cycle.
The two Leonore Overtures come from the
same Columbia LP (33CX 1270). We hear the rarely played Leonore
No. 1. Klemperer was to re-record it with the same orchestra
in the same location nine years later. All three of the 1963
Leonore Overtures are available coupled with the Eighth
Symphony on EMI’s Klemperer Legacy CDM5 66796 2. Klemperer makes
a superb case for No. 1, as he does for the much better-known
Third Overture - essentially a symphonic poem, as Colin Anderson
points out in his booklet notes - recorded the very next day.
The sound-painting of the prison cell at the opening, followed
by the clarinet statement of Florestan’s aria (“In des Lebens”)
is exquisitely managed, as is the true string pianissimo
immediately following. String discipline, too, is miraculous.
The “off-stage trumpet” is nicely distanced. Both Leonores
have their own theatricality here and reward careful listening.