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Symphony no 9 ('From the New World'); Carnival Overture; Scherzo Capriccioso; Slavonic Dance no 1

The Moldau

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philmarmonic Orchestra, Berlin State Opera Orchestra Erich Kleiber
Historical Recordings 1927-1948
Transfer Mark Obert-Thorn Recorded September-October 1999
Naxos 8.110907 [74:34]
Crotchet   Amazon UK  £4.99

Erich Kleiber (1890-1956) was undoubtedly one of the great conductors of his day, though his European career was severely ruptured by Hitler's advent to power and the Second World War: during these years he spent most of his time in South America.

Historical recordings are a lottery: interesting from an interpretative perspective, perhaps, but often of dodgy sound quality, as on the whole is this one. With one exception, the recordings were made in Berlin between 1927 and 1930. Oddly enough, that exception - the Carnival Overture (which dates from 1948) - is much the poorest in sound quality. Frankly, it's dreadful, and its inclusion here is hard to understand. Made in the Kingsway Hall with the LPO, it was an early Decca ffrr release. The performance seems authoritative enough, but the dead, mushy, lightweight sound with tinny upper strings and percussion, and the addition of full brass coming over simply as an increase in volume, it is totally unacceptable.

The older recordings (made with the Berlin Philharmonic and State Opera Orchestras) fare better, though they contain some alarming wobbles in pitch. A truncated but lively version of the Scherzo Capriccioso is marred by considerable surface noise, and the cello accompaniment to the second subject is much too prominent. In The Moldau Kleiber works up a particularly vivid storm at the climax. Much the most interesting recording is that of the New World Symphony, where Kleiber adopts distinctly idiosyncratic tempi. The opening introduction is unusually grave and the subsequent allegro correspondingly brisk Another unusual tempo occurs in the third movement trio - very steady - while the horn entry in the finale's coda verges on the lugubrious. The sound quality is variable, timpani, for instance, ranging from sharply defined to indeterminately muffled.

Adrian Smith



(Carnival) (The rest)

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