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
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.