> Great Conductors of the 20th Century: PAUL KLETZKI [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Great Conductors of the 20th Century:

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Benvenuti Cellini - Overturea.
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64b. Capriccio italien, Op. 45c.
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Rosamunde - Entr'acte after Act 3d.
Antonin DVORAK Slavonic Dancese - D, Op. 46 No. 6; C minor, Op. 46 No. 7; C, Op. 72 No. 7.
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Overture, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27f.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98g.
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Wesendonck-Lieder - No. 5, Traumeh.
hHugh Bean (violin); achPhilharmonia Orchestra, bBavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, dRoyal Philharmonic Orchestra, eFrench National Radio Orchestra, fIsrael Philharmonic Orchestra, gCzech Philharmonic Orchestra/Paul Kletzki. [ADD]
In association with IMG Artists
Recorded at acdhKingsway Hall, London on aSeptember 6th, 1951 cSeptember 3rd-4th, dOctober 29th, 1958, h1958, blive performance at the Herkulesaal, Munich on May 19th, 1967, eFrench Radio Studios, Paris, in July 1961, fTel Aviv on May 25th, 1954, glive performance at the Rudolfinium, Prague, on December 20th, 1965.
EMI CLASSICS CZS5 75468-2 [2CDs: 147'47]

This is an intelligently planned two-disc representation of a conductor whose accomplishments to this day have seemed to me undervalued. The set shows the conductor's strengths as well as his weaknesses. Each disc has a live performance of a major symphony as its mainstay: for disc 1, Tchaikovsky's Fifth with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; for disc 2, Brahms' Fourth Symphony with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. These two performances, indeed, provide the major point of attraction for the potential purchaser.

Tully Potter provides excellent booklet notes, chronologically listing Kletzki's life and musical achievements, but the final appreciation must surely come from the listener's experiences of the performances themselves. The Tchaikovsky Fifth was recorded in Munich's Herkulesaal in May 1967. Its first and second movements have no problems, generating superlatives from this reviewer: the clarinet's initial statement of the 'Fate motif' is black-hued and ominous and an appropriately dark atmosphere is evoked. Kletzki is tremendously sensitive to the ebb and flow of the unfolding drama, his structural grasp wonderfully allied to an attention to detail that can only spring from prolonged study. It may be argued that the Allegro is not 'con anima', as the score directs, but Kletzki uses his slower than usual tempo to generate a cumulative effect.

The sonorous Bavarian strings provide the ideal backdrop for the expressive horn solo. Only the fact that the climax could be more overwhelming gives a hint that the last two movements constitute near misses. The Valse is over-serious, accents sounding more marked and interruptive than is comfortable. There is certainly no doubting Kletzki's control of the orchestra in his handling of tenuti, but the requisite graceful effect is missing. The finale is, unfortunately, the weakest movement. The introduction lives up to the 'maestoso' marking, but the opening of the Allegro vivace is low in confidence and, despite playing up the drama during the course of the argument, the final statements of the motto theme are not as exultant as they might have been. The final pages are exciting, but it is too late by then. If you are after a latter-day Tchaikovsky Fifth, try the Vienna Philharmonic under Gergiev on Philips 462 905-2.

The live Brahms Fourth is similarly patchy. Again, the first movement is strong. Kletzki manages to be fluidly expressive whilst maintaining the pulse, seemingly fully enjoying the rich Czech string sound. The slow movement is certainly slow, much under the marked Andante, and often self-indulgent. However, the rich, creamy, vibrato-ed (but tastefully so) horn sound comes into its own with the big solo (the horns also elicit a beautiful tone in the more languorous sections of the third movement). A pity, then, that the tension sags towards the end of the symphony.

Much of the rest of the product's programme exemplifies traits already identified in the performances of the symphonies: a careful attention to detail inexplicably marred on occasion by various quirks. Thus, the Mendelssohn overture has a lovingly shaped opening section, with supreme woodwind dovetailing (also, Kletzki's ear for orchestral balance is a wonder to experience). The Allegro, with its chattering woodwind, is energetic throughout: so why, given Kletzki's ear for balance, is the timpanist so over-enthusiastic towards the end, causing the whole to descend into melodrama?.

The Dvorak Slavonic Dances are attractive and well-paced, although no match for Kubelik on DG (Trio 469 336-2, or The Originals 457 712-2). The Berlioz 'Benvenuti Cellini' Overture is a bit low on ebullience (despite some notable brass playing), while the Schubert Entr'acte from 'Rosamunde' is very much of its era. It is slow, over-Romantic and too smooth for its own good. The exaggerated ritardandi hardly help, and some lovely, 'liquid' clarinet playing cannot save it.

Ending the second disc with Tchaikovsky's 'Capriccio italien' was a wise move. Here is a performance which avoids crassness (not easy in this piece) yet still manages to carry the essence of Tchaikovsky. Kletzki had previously recorded it in mono in 1950. This 1958 recording represents the stereo re-make.

Finally, a performance of 'Traume' from Wagner's 'Wesendonck-Lieder' with violinist Hugh Bean taking the solo part separates the Brahms from the Tchaikovsky Capriccio. It is an interesting curiosity, but musically is marred by Bean's preference for leaning on accents too much. The recording information in the booklet gives 30th August and September 9th, 1958 as the recording dates, whereas the notes claim it was 'recorded in the last half-hour of a session'.

Certainly this is an interesting compilation, although none of the recordings could constitute a primary recommendation.

Colin Clarke

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