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Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century: Paul Kletzki
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Benvenuto Cellini Overture* [10í30"]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Symphony No 5 in E minor, Op. 64 ** [45í07"]; Capriccio italien, Op. 45******** [14í26"]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Rosamunde, entríacte after Act III *** [7í49"]
Antonín DVOŘŃK (1841-1904) Slavonic Dances**** in D major, Op. 46, No 6; [4í56"]; in C minor, Op 46, No 7; [3í18"]; in C major, Op. 72, No 7 [3í11"]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Overture Meeresstille und Glückliche Fahrt, Op. 27 ***** [11í20"]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony No 4 in E minor, Op. 98****** [40í12"]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Wesendonck-Lieder, No. 5 Träume******* [4í49"]
*Philharmonia Orchestra. Recorded Kingsway Hall, London 6 September, 1951
** Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. ĎLiveí recording, Herkulessaal, Munich, 19 May, 1967
*** Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded Kingsway Hall, 29 October 1958
**** Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française. Recorded French Radio Studios, Paris, July 1961
***** Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded Tel Aviv, 25 May 1954
****** Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. ĎLiveí recording, Rudolfinum, Prague, 20 December 1965
******* Hugh Bean (violin). Philharmonia Orchestra. Recorded Kingsway Hall, 30 August & 4 September, 1958
******** Philharmonia Orchestra. Recorded Kingsway Hall, 3 & 4 September 1958
All items conducted by Paul Kletzki
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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. The Mendelssohn 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 itís worth!)

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.

John Quinn

See aso the review by Colin Clarke

EMI/IMG Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century

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