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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 4 in E minor Op. 98 (1884) [40:38]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 8 in B minor ‘Unfinished’ D 759 (1822) [24:52
Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Paul Kletzki
Philharmonia Orchestra/Paul Kletzki
rec. Lucerne, September 1946 (Brahms) and at Studio 1 Abbey Road, London, November 1946 (Schubert)
GUILD GHCD 2319 [65:44]

 


Kletzki’s reputation as an orchestral trainer has rather militated against him. His years of wandering also precluded symphonic attachments; when, in the years of relative stability, he was appointed to positions of some eminence – Liverpool, Dallas, and Berne – he never stayed long. Perhaps his longest attachment was the three-year spell with the Suisse Romande. Still Walter Legge recognised him as an important figure and Kletzki’s captured here directing the Philharmonia in Schubert as well as the Lucerne Festival in Brahms. Both performances were committed to disc in 1946 and both reflect well on Kletzki in terms of architectural sagacity and the encouragement of singing tone.

The Brahms is a sane, intelligent and unexaggerated reading. It’s not the kind of performance for those who favour either the granitic intensities or the linear asceticism of conductors steeped in more metaphysical codes of engagement. For though Kletzki does broaden where necessary in the slow movement he avoids the metrical and the coagulatory with equal aplomb. Similarly the finale has a few metrical displacements but these are never intrusive, never threatening to the architectural fabric of the score. There is a touch of lower string congestion from time to time, which I would ascribe not to Kletzki’s inability to insist on separation of strands, but to the recording set up in Lucerne.

These qualities are reflected in his Schubert, another reading of polished control and eloquence. His phrasing is affectionate and he pays attention to detail once again encouraging a strongly singing tone from the strings – he’d been a violinist and distinguished orchestral leader in his youth. His conducting remains lucid and imaginative. The slow movement is measured. Many years later he left behind another recording of the symphony with the USSR State in 1968, a recording revivified on Melodiya 11221152. Here he accepted the Andante’s con moto instruction with greater alacrity than he had back in 1946 with significant tempo alteration. Nevertheless the same traits of taste and line are evident in both performances. Kletzki was, at his best, a warm and engaging interpreter who lacked rostrum narcissism to his great advantage.

I like these transfers much more than Guild’s previous Kletzki release where he acted as accompanist to Malcuzynki in Chopin and Rachmaninoff concertos. Side joins are good and the transfer team has left higher frequencies much more intact. The results are commendable.

Jonathan Woolf 

 


 


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