Klemperer did a fair amount of recording for Walter Legge, often
with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He had an affinity
with Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, and conducted it often during
his life, particularly during the later stage of his career. This,
made in 1956 with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks,
is his first recording of the piece, which he then followed four
years later by a recording with the Philharmonia, as well as producing
other versions with the Vienna Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic
in 1958 and the German Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1966.
One can immediately see that Klemperer has a good
grasp of the symphony – although his is a rather cool and unemotional
approach. The first movement, Allegro moderato, is brisk
and unassuming – pleasantly fresh, in fact. A noble and dignified
Adagio is followed by a penetrating Scherzo, and
the Finale is again deliberate and precise, not at all
Although this reading of the symphony may not be
everyone’s cup of tea, it is nonetheless a good and valid rendition.
Klemperer is unsentimental even in the more romantic sections
– he avoids being over-emotional and grandiose, and is often
analytical and clear - especially in the woodwinds. Yet he nonetheless
keeps a fair measure of majestic sweeps and the senses of urgency
where necessary. The recorded sound is a bit thin – but this
can be forgiven in a recording that is over fifty years old!
The twinning of Bruckner’s Seventh with the Prelude
to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg is an apt
one, given that Bruckner, who owed much to Wagner, wrote the
coda to the Adagio of the Seventh Symphony in Wagner’s
memory as soon as he heard of the great composer’s death.
The recording here – of another live performance
dating from 1956, is curiously mechanical and rather laboured,
especially at the opening. Klemperer also adopts a sudden and
rather extreme rallentando at the end, slamming on the
brakes, which I don’t feel particularly enhances the music.
On the whole, however, this is an interesting disc
and certainly worth a listen.