Polish-born Paul Kletzki
(1900-1973) is not, perhaps, a stellar
name these days in the pantheon of conductors.
However, as Tully Potter makes clear
in a typically informed and informative
liner note, he was a far from inconsiderable
figure in post-war European musical
life. He guided several orchestras as
Music Director (though none of these
is represented here) and was good enough
for the discerning Walter Legge to involve
him in the early years of the Philharmonia.
This anthology seems to me to present
quite a rounded portrayal of his talent.
I enjoyed his vital
and colourful Benvenuto Cellini
very much. It starts with great élan
after which the slower music is
warmly and affectionately voiced. The
faster sections zip along infectiously
with the Philharmonia (and Kletzki)
on top form.
The short Schubert
piece demonstrates Kletzkiís talent
for drawing out warm playing from an
orchestra, the strings especially, an
attribute that is emphasized in Tully
Potterís appreciation. There are some
lovely woodwind solos too, especially
a delightfully "woody" clarinet.
overture is atmospheric at the start,
leading to a spirited allegro though
I felt that the articulation of the
Israeli orchestra was not always quite
up to the mark. The DvořŠk dances
are done with grace, flair and no little
charm. These, in particular,
are useful for showing us Kletzkiís
lighter side. All concerned have tremendous
fun in the concluding C major dance.
The Wagner item was
squeezed out of the last half-hour of
a session, as the late Hugh Bean recalls
in the notes, and Bean played from the
vocal part. Itís nice that this tribute
to Kletzki offers such a welcome reminder
of the sweet, secure playing of Hugh
Bean, whose 1967 recording with Boult
of The Lark Ascending (EMI) remains
one of the very finest I know. Iím afraid
that to me, the Capriccio italien
is a dreadfully banal piece and even
Kletzki and the vintage Philharmonia
canít persuade me otherwise. However,
if you donít share my aversion to this
piece then youíll find that it receives
a strongly projected, characterful reading
here. Kletzki plays it for all itís
worth (actually, for rather more than
The meat of the anthology
consists of two standard repertory symphonies
in concert performances. I rather regret
that something a little less familiar
was not chosen or, perhaps, one of Kletzkiís
Mahler recordings or his Decca recording
with the Suisse Romande Orchestra of
Rachmaninovís Second Symphony, which
I well remember from LP days. The reading
of the Brahms Fourth seems to take a
minute or two to settle. I felt that
this was very much a string-playerís
Brahms. I donít mean by that that the
other parts are underplayed but Kletzki
does encourage his strings to sing out.
(At 9í47 in the first movement he can
be heard audibly urging the fiddles
to "zing" a phrase Ė and they
do!) This is a sympathetic and affectionate
reading. It doesnít have the classic
objectivity of, say, Boult, still less
the granite grip of Klemperer but I
think itís successful in its own terms.
At 11í45" his reading of the second
movement is among the broader traversals
Iíve heard but he sustains the argument.
The finale doesnít begin quite as strongly
as Iíd expected but he builds what is
rather a thoughtful reading gradually.
At 6í05" the power kicks in with
the return of the opening motif and
from there to the end the performance
is white hot. I wouldnít describe this
as a groundbreaking reading but itís
a sound and interesting one and the
Czech orchestra plays well for him.
On the equipment I used (not my own)
the upper strings sounded a bit glassy
but not to a distracting degree.
The live Tchaikovsky
Fifth starts at a deliberate pace and
the measured tempo continues past the
introduction into the start of the main
allegro. I felt the speed adopted after
the introduction was too slow and itís
noticeable that Kletzki whips up the
speed to a more "conventional"
level after a couple of minutes. Thereafter
the movement is pretty exciting though
the slow speed returns when the opening
material of the allegro is reprised.
There are one or two minor glitches
in the playing, but nothing of significance.
The slow movement is warm and generously
phrased with a good horn solo. As in
the first movement thereís ardour in
the climaxes. The waltz lilts nicely
with some flashing woodwind work in
the central section. The introduction
to the finale is suitably weighty, again
featuring full-bowed string playing,
and the sparks fly in the main allegro.
This is an enjoyable, reliable and musical
performance of a "war-horse"
that manages to avoid sounding routine.
To be quite honest
I donít think that any of the performances
here shed a tremendous amount of new
light on the pieces concerned. But one
doesnít always want that. What we have
here is a collection of sensible, understanding
and experienced interpretations in which
the music is laid out idiomatically
for the listener without calling unwarranted
attention to the interpreter. If that
sounds like damning with faint praise
itís certainly not meant that way.
Overall this is a good
portrait of a conductor who, on the
evidence of this anthology, has perhaps
been undervalued in the years since
his death. It is well worth investigation.
See aso the review
by Colin Clarke
Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century