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Erich Kleiber conducts
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Op.36 (1877) [41:14]
Symphony No..6 in B minor Op.74 Pathétique (1893) [45:55]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 5 D485 (1816) [23:31]
Symphony No. 8 in B minor Unfinished D759 (1822) [21:59]
West German Radio Orchestra/Erich Kleiber, rec. 1955
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Erich Kleiber, commercially rec. January 1935
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Erich Kleiber, rec. New York/Erich Kleiber, January 1948
NDR symphony Orchestra/Erich Kleiber, rec. Hamburg/Erich Kleiber, January 1953
IDIS 6505/06 [67:59 + 64:40]


Prepare to skim-read if you’re one of those perverse souls not into the minutiae of sexy discographies and their nexus with the wacky world of mysterious reissue companies. With due thanks to the diligence of an excellent source of Kleiber information this represents, as best as I can note it, the state of affairs with regard to these four particular performances:- 

Tchaikovsky 4 - Urania: URN 22.116 (1999) Tahra: TAH-450 (2002) Music & Arts: CD-1112 (4CDs) (2002) Andromeda: ANDRCD 5005(3CDs) (2005)

Tchaikovsky 6 - Nuova Era: 2338/39 (2CDs) (1989) Seven Seas: KICC 2079 (1990) Originals: SH 839 (1995) Archipel: ARPCD 0321 (2005) Medici Masters: MM003-2 (2007)

Schubert 5 - Nuova Era: 2338/39 (2CDs) (1989) IMG: 5 75115 2(2CDs) (2002) Urania: RM 11.902 (2003) 

Schubert 8 - Musica Classica: MC 2003/4 (2CDs) (1989)  Teldec: 9031-76436-2 (1996)  Preiser: 90229 (1994) Grammofono: AB 78 609 (1996) Theorema: TH 121225 (1996) Arlecchino: ARL180 Grammofono: AB 78 802 (1998) Cantus: CACD 5.00189 (2CDs) (2001) Classica D'or: CDO 1036 (2001) Teldec: 0927 42664 2 (2002) Archipel: ARPCD 0199 (2004) Artone: 222355-354 (4CDs) (2005) Berlin Philharmoniker: BPH0603 (2006) 

The Tchaikovsky 4 comes from a concert on 3 January 1948. The composer was hardly an interest of Toscanini’s but Kleiber certainly didn’t share the Italian’s indifference or hostility and nor did Toscanini’s despised sometime co-conductor of the NBC, Leopold Stokowski. There’s excitement in Kleiber’s Fourth but also plenty of orchestral clarity. He gives the folk-inflected passage for clarinet and flute from 5’02 a certain deadpan elegance. He can be stern yet yielding when necessary. Some mushiness intrudes on the acetates in this movement however, especially on string forte passages from 14:30 onwards and there are moments of negligible, but audible, radio interference. The close of the movement brings an impressed burst of applause. Scuffs and acetate chugs attend the second movement. I admired the linearity of Kleiber’s conducting here and the intensely emphatic string moulding, especially the passage from 1:29 to 1:32 and its analogue in the wind choir. Indeed the fluency and strength of the Scherzo and Finale are testament to Kleiber’s dynamism and orchestral mastery. There’s nothing over lingering about his interpretation; it obeys the proprieties with expressive tautness.

The Pathétique is reminiscent of the October 1953 performance Kleiber gave with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra now on Testament SBT2 1352 where it’s coupled with the Fourth – an outstandingly conducted brace of readings. The avid and muscular power Kleiber generates with the NDR is certainly comparable to the commercial disc – the extra adrenalin and darkening curve of the German broadcast reinforces the assertive dynamism, wide dynamic range and tense emotive content of his Tchaikovsky conducting.

The NDR Schubert Fifth is forward moving without sounding rushed. Phrasing sounds natural and lissom with a natural agitation in the rhythmic profile. Adhering to the con moto indication he takes the slow movement more bracingly than Beecham, more affectionately and lightly than Walter. The central section is contrastingly powerful. Winds throughout respond warmly to his direction. The sectional balance is tight. The Unfinished is the only commercial recording and by some way the earliest – Berlin, 1935. The sound is not at all bad for the vintage but this fine performance has been very much reissued over the years, as a look at the previous incarnations will show. Its reappearance here so soon after its re-release on the Berlin Philharmonic’s own label means that Kleiber adherents will find it less of an inducement.

IDIS has trawled persistently with this disc. It’s done no meaningfully helpful restorative work and there are no notes, as with so many of this kind of production.

Jonathan Woolf  



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