This is quite a stark reminder of the shattering differences between concert
hall performances and live recordings, the latter so much of an event than
the former. This is a spectacular live relay of a concert that preceded the
more famous studio recording, an overt masterpiece long since lauded as one
of the finest Ninths around. That this inimitable recording had to lie for
over forty years languishing in EMI's vaults is understandable as they would
obviously have pressed sales for the studio version but the neglect is
unforgivable considering the unhallowed greatness of Klemperer's live conducting.
So much happens in this First Movement, there is such an amount of tension
that one is almost left breathless by the constantly rising syncopations
and powerful declamations of the playing. I was especially taken by the Second
movement's inimitable drive and passion; the 'Feast of Bacchus' is indeed
something else. The Philharmonia are a constant marvel throughout with strings
in absolute unison whilst the horns (presumably led by Alan Civil) having
one of their field days.
This Adagio molto is astonishingly quick for Klemperer at just 15 minutes
it knocks almost a minute off the studio recording done a week later, here
the thrilling beauty of the performance shines like burnished copper. With
that glorious Finale we are indeed on Klemperer's home ground, a constant
prayer of unforgettable thrust and momentum. He sails through the opening
passage with astonishing vigour and the famous 'Joy' theme is perfectly phrased,
just the right amount of pathos and no over gorging here.
All soloists accredit themselves well enough especially the deep bass of
Hans Hotter and the women's team of Aase Nordmo Lovberg and Christa Ludwig
are indeed in fine voice. This inaugural concert for the Philharmonia Chorus
was an outstanding success with their contribution shining out as an authorative
and indeed quite masterly. I cannot overstate the importance of this historic
reading and it is indeed a joy that it is available once again. Klemperer's
live relay takes its place alongside Furtwangler's justly famous account
of seven years earlier but this one is accorded better sound and is considerable
better played. A must-have, for all Beethoven devotees and more than that.