TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No 6 in B minor Op 74 'Pathetique';
SCHUMANN Symphony No 4 in D minor.
Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto
EMI Classics The Klemperer
Legacy CDM5 67336 26 [ADD] [75' 37"]. Recordings from 1961 and 1962.
Klemperer begins the Tchaikovsky in a sinister, lugubrious way. When the
allegro begins it is revealed what a rather inane theme it is but
I have to say that Klemperer reveals some fascinating detail. And how much
this theme is almost identical to the one in the Fourth Symphony.
Klemperer makes excellent build-ups and tries to keep the episodic character
of the first movement together. But the main theme which appears after 4½
minutes is far too sentimental although Klemperer is to be commended for
playing it without wallowing. About seven minutes in, the main theme reappears
on the strings with brass punctuation and is very well done ... an excellent
balance, a well judged intensity and it is not slushy. The solo clarinet
The central section is very dramatic at times and shows us the feebleness
of the earlier material. It really does. The sound is excellent (the recording
dates from 1962). The orchestral balance is good.
I admired this no-nonsense approach although I have to admit that this is
not my favourite music. I cannot see how Jeremy Siepmann in his booklet notes
calls this Tchaikovsky's greatest achievement.
The second movement is a waltz and an example of his 'grand light music'.
Again, orchestral detail is expertly caught and Klemperer has the measure
of the music, however banal some believe it is.
The third movement is most people's favourite movement and this performance
shows how well Tchaikovsky could orchestrate. It is not molto vivace
though and therefore all the excitement and thrills are lost. It is ponderous
whereas it should be exciting. The conductor who excelled in bringing out
Tchaikovsky's pyrotechnics was Constantin Silvestri. His recording of the
Fifth Symphony is unequalled.
Klemperer's realising his pedantic speed briefly tries to rectify the situation
but apart from an exuberant bass drum it reverts to being painfully slow.
In fact, it is excruciatingly bad! It is an andante not an allegro
And so to the slow finale, a large scale lament. Played well it can
be very beautiful. Dragged and 'milked' it can be awful. Klemperer takes
9½ minutes. I have heard it take 17! I liked the performance of this
movement. Again, it was straight.
If you want any or all of the Schumann symphonies then Ricardo Muti's
performances are, without doubt, the finest. Solti's performances are mannered
as one expects from him but listen to Muti's account of the Second
Symphony. It is faultless and reveals what a great work it is and challenges
those who complain about Schumann's orchestration.
The Fourth Symphony in Klemperer's account is badly flawed. A slowing
of the tempo at bar 44 of the opening movement, a lack of rhythmic
bounce as inherent in the score, a speeding up at bar 121 to compensate for
the unauthorised slowing down earlier and then at bar 147 another slackening
of the tempo. The coda in D major has no 'blaze'; at bar 337 the tempo is
corrected again and so on. The romanze has little dolce from
the solo violin and the scherzo lacks rhythmic drive.. The trio section is
far too slow. The finale is monochrome; it has no contrast although the
introduction has a good atmosphere. The main section is supposed to be lively
but it isn't. The performance has no character and very little drama.
And this is the conductor whose Mahler 2 is perfect!