While there has been
a previous commercial recording of Klemperer's
Second Symphony and Merry Waltzes (EMI
Classics) this was only briefly in the
I have long had considerable
respect for the work of Alun Francis
who has had to make his living in Scandinavia
and Germany. His recordings of the Pettersson
symphonies for CPO are fine documents.
He also was the conductor for the 1970s
Hyperion recordings of Thea King playing
the clarinet concertos by Stanford and
The First Symphony
is a strange amalgam of Weill-like
angst and the cheerily manic - almost
light music. Certainly it is entertaining.
There are moments when it pitches towards
Korngold but it lacks that composer's
disconnection from emotional embarrassment.
There is always the sense with Klemperer
that he will hold onto his emotions
like grim death. The second movement
has a touching Berg-like concentration
and communicative intensity (Wagnerian
at moments e.g. 8.02) with much of the
affekt achieved through the massed strings.
The turmoil of the first movement returns
towards the centre of the movement.
There are times when these two movements
seem ill-assorted rather than part of
an integrated whole even if, taken individually,
they each in their own way grip the
The Second Symphony
is full of inventive little orchestrational
touches (listen to the singing chuckle
of the woodwind at 2:34 of the first
movement and the shuddering whistle
effects - very original. The second
movement leans into Mahlerian adagio
territory and we must remember that
at this stage in his career he was the
darling of EMI Classics and of
concert-goers. There is a light-hearted
and delicate third movement and a Beethoven-inflected
The Merry Waltz
is gorgeous: contrast of intimacy
with the grand sweep; a slightly dissonant
edge and glittering percussion highlights.
The Marcia Funebre is
stern, searching and is complete with
side-drum marking out the slow cortege.
Once again the clink and tinkle of percussion
signs off the score as a Klemperer composition.
As with so much about this disc the
recording team have done a great job
in preserving and articulating Klemperer's
caring and inventive placement of the
percussion. Recollections is
a slightly sentimental memento with
the viola solo confirming the steadily
paced progress and with references to
Bruckner and Brahms along the way. The
Scherzo is a hyper-romantic
essay buzzing along full tilt with a
Brucknerian confidence soon subborned
by Weill-like angularity and a rasping
and stern edginess.
You may have been curious
about Klemperer’s compositions so here
is an opportunity to slake your thirst.
How long I wonder before we hear the
collected orchestral works of Weingartner,
Karl Rankl (his Fifth Symphony sounds
promising), Leslie Heward (Peer Gynt
opera and much else) and Jan Krenz
(at least one symphony which I heard
broadcast during the 1970s).
If I say that this
is intriguing music you are going to
read that as faint praise. That's not
the intention. This is interesting music
which takes some very oddball routes
and decisions and which, quite understandably,
is saturated with the composer’s concert
experiences; how could it be otherwise?
Puzzle your friends - yes. But this
is also music that has the power to
surprise and leave you pensive.