> Mahler Symphony 2 Klemperer 1951 Guild [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No 2 Resurrection
Kathleen Ferrier contralto
Jo Vincent soprano
Concertgebouw Orchestra
Otto Klemperer
Recorded Holland Festival 6 [12?] July 1951
GUILD GHCD 2210 [77’41]


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The Klemperer whose Resurrection with the Philharmonia in 1972 stretched so long and far is not immediately recognisably the same Klemperer whose Concertgebouw performance in 1951 took 75’41 and is so blazingly alive. Klemperer was an itinerant conductor at the time, recording for small labels, beset with the manic-depressive tendencies that dogged him throughout his life. He conducted at the State Opera in Budapest and recordings have revealed a revelatory drive and drama to his performances; Amsterdam, where he was a frequent visitor, was perhaps less than wholeheartedly taken by him. Admiration was tinged with a certain squeamishness and a notable distaste for what it saw as his less than technically adroit performances and his unpredictability; in London critics were equally squeamish about his programmes, ticking him off like a child.

He was in Vienna in May 1951 to perform and record the Resurrection which, according to Peter Heyworth’s biography he found a shattering event. Two months later he returned to Amsterdam for the Holland Festival and three performances to mark the forty years since Mahler’s death. Heyworth incidentally notes the dates of the performances as 11, 12 and 14 July; Paul Campion in his Ferrier discography notes that the 12 July performance was broadcast and recorded for the Dutch Radio Archives; Guild give the performance date as 6 July which I assume is a mistake. The performance has been reissued since on LP and CD but not many reissues have printed Ferrier’s characteristically straightforward comments on Klemperer in this performance; "I hate to work with Klemperer …I find he shouts like a madman…just to try to impress – though why he should think it impresses I can’t think. Perhaps his Mahler comes off sometimes, because he wastes no time nor sentiment – but ohh!!! Whattaman." It couldn’t have helped that she had just been diagnosed with the cancer that was soon to kill her.

The recording quality is variable but more than acceptable, some intractable surface imperfections apart, and accepting the rather veiled quality generally. Klemperer is vibrantly propulsive and energetic, the orchestra on fine form, showing none, or very few, of the technical shortcomings that so irritated the Dutch critics on Klemperer’s other visits to the Concertgebouw. Orchestral principals are alert, string tone sonorous, portamenti audible and pervasive – Mengelberg’s Mahlerian fingerprints were hard to erase and with reason – and both Ferrier and Vincent on excellent form, notwithstanding Ferrier’s strictures about the conductor. The conclusion is overwhelming in its impact, even with some choral smudges; the applause long and heartfelt.

A few demerits; the ambiguous date; a surfeit of misplaced apostrophes in the booklet notes; Richard Caniell’s biographical notes on Ferrier, whilst sincerely meant, read very strangely – stilted sentences, short, staccato, as if translated into English from a foreign language.

Jonathan Woolf

See review by Robert Farr


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