Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

MOZART - Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Symphonies 39 and 41 "Jupiter".

Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer.
EMI 7243 5 67334 2 8

Re-released as part of "The Klemperer Legacy" series on EMI, these recordings from the 1960s capture the celebrated conductor's view of Mozart, warts and all. On the plus side, the woodwind are as forwardly balanced as you would expect with Klemperer, thus allowing some details in the symphonies to emerge with striking clarity (the Trio of the "Jupiter" is a model of this and a highlight of the disc). Also, the placing of the first and second violins to the left and right, respectively, allows the antiphonal writing in the first and last movements of "Eine Kleine", for example, to make a considerable impact. On the debit side, the conductor's tempi are almost uniformly too deliberate for comfort with debilitative, massive slow movements which sound positively embalmed so monumental is the result. One could loose the will the live long before the strings have chugged their way through the Romanze of "Eine Kleine" (it is marked Andante after all!).

Klemperer displays a cavalier attitude to repeats, omitting the vital exposition repeat in the first movement of Symphony no 39 but observing it in the Finale, thus upsetting the balance of the symphony even further having already delivered a titanic slow movement which undermines the work's centre of gravity. On the whole the Finales respond best to Klemperer's monolithic approach, details in the scoring of Jupiter's miraculous fugal Finale being especially telling in the clear analytical recording (a pity the timpani sound a bit muddy throughout, though).

In sum, this disc is likely to be enjoyed by uncritical admirers of Klemperer's art while those who rightly rank composer above conductor in their assessments of performances might do well to look elsewhere. A sensible choice on modern instruments is afforded by Neville Marriner and his Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra on Phillips whilst Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic on DG have a "big band" sound without leaden tempi. The Philharmonia playing on the EMI CD is perfectly fine while not immaculate, but there are times in the slow movements where you can hear them positively straining at the leash. There are plenty of available recorded examples of Klemperer's talent at its peak in Mahler, Wagner and Beethoven, for example, so one should not be too discouraged by these generally grim-visaged readings. I hope EMI will be releasing some treasures in this series - there are plenty to chose from in the Klemperer back catalogues.


Paul Conway


Paul Conway

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