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In Memoriam Erich Kleiber
The voice of Erich Kleiber [2:13]
Dr Friedrich Schanpp talks of Kleiber [4:22]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No.36 in C K425 Linz (1783) – Movements one and two only [14:24] ¹
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No.4 in B Flat Major Op.60 (1806) [24:02] ²
Symphony No.5 in C Minor Op.67 (1807) [21:06] ¹
Symphony No.6 in F Major Pastoral Op.68 (1808) [43:32] ³
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104 (1895) [39:06] ³
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Les Préludes R414 (1854) [13:57] ª
Antonio Janigro (cello) ³
NWDR Symphony Orchestra ¹
Concertgebouw Orchestra ²
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra ³
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra ª
Erich Kleiber
rec. March 1955, Hamburg (Mozart, and Beethoven No.5); April 1955, Funkhaus Wallraffplatz (Beethoven No.6, Dvořák); April 1950 (Beethoven No.4); June 1936, Berlin (commercial 78s) (Liszt)
TAHRA TAH 581-583 [3 CDs: 55:27 + 74:54 + 53:14]

This is a valuable three disc set devoted to the art of Erich Kleiber and is released in memoriam, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 1956. Kleiber collectors will know that the conductor’s last big reissue bonanza was the 1949-55 Decca collection issued under the Original Masters imprint in 2004 (Decca 475 6080- see review).
All the performances in Tahra’s set fall within that recording period and they reflect aspects of Kleiber’s musicianship that one would have anticipated but still welcomed. The Linz Symphony is unfortunately only a torso. Only the first two movements are extant though the surviving Poco adagio has a powerful sense of lyricism and depth. Coupled with it is Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony in a highly impressive reading. The sense of anticipation and tension is palpable and there’s plenty of drive and drama in this Concertgebouw performance to remind us of the conductor’s successful contemporary commercial recordings with this orchestra. The Adagio is once again a fount of expression, without exaggerated point making, whilst the finale is buoyed up with considerable reserves of energy. It’s certainly no strait-laced performance but a freely expressive one.
Both the Fifth and Sixth symphonies are prominently featured in the Decca box; there are in fact two recordings of the latter, one recorded in Amsterdam, the other in London. The 1955 NWDR Fifth gets a trenchant but proportioned reading, powerful and heroic and with an especially purposeful third movement. The finale is rather more considered than the Concertgebouw recording, and has a touch more space to make its points. The Cologne Pastoral is, if anything, even better at phrasal pliancy than the commercial readings. The way Kleiber ushers in the violin entries in the Allegretto finale is tenderer than I’ve ever heard from him. It’s certainly the slowest finale I can recall from Kleiber; he usually took it a good minute and a half quicker than the eleven minutes in Cologne. The only real gripe concerns the orchestra, which doesn’t get wind chording right, is subject to some glassy sounding strings – quite possibly a recording phenomenon – and sports a principal horn intent on emulating the dulcet strains of the euphonium.
Which leads one to the Dvořák Cello Concerto with Janigro. The principal horn returns to blight this performance with his unwelcome presence. Still, there’s always Janigro, who recorded the work commercially with Dean Dixon in Vienna for Westminster. I’m not aware that this Tahra release is the same performance as that enshrined on Archipel ARPCD0329 (see review) and which is dated very near to this one. The timings are rather different for one thing. If it’s not the same – and I don’t believe it is - then Janigro and Kleiber presumably gave repeat performances. The performance is only fitfully convincing, as was the one on Archipel. There’s a rather heavy, occasionally stop-start, profile to the whole thing. And it lacks athleticism and frankly doesn’t plumb many depths. Janigro was often a diverting player but he was not always at his best in Romantic works.
As a pendant we have the welcomingly anomalous – in the current broadcast context - pre-War commercial recording of Liszt’s Les Préludes with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. This is vintage 1936, still sounding good, and is energetic and driving. Finally we have two snippets of conversation. Dr Friedrich Schanpp talks of his working relationship with Kleiber. And we also hear Kleiber’s voice in a little speech he made to the Cologne orchestra, recorded without his knowledge.
Tahra has compiled what they describe as a tentative discography, which makes up the bulk of the fine booklet. There are also full colour photographic reproductions of LP sleeve notes. This is the kind of thing this company does so well. And there are most certainly things here that will prove arresting and exciting for the Kleiber collector.
Jonathan Woolf



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