Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No.3 in E flat major Op.55 Eroica (1804) [55:41] ¹
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 29 in A major K201 (1774) [24:06]
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Otto Klemperer ¹
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. April 1958, Konserthuset, Stockholm (Beethoven) and April 1956, Herkulessall, Munich (Mozart)
MEDICI MASTERS MM037-2 [78:09]

Klemperer’s Eroica has something for everyone. If you prefer the commercial mono of 1955 you will enjoy a quite brisk take on the funeral march, whereas if you go for the 1961 stereo you’ll get the expansive version. In this archive restoration from Stockholm in April 1958, which happily bisects his EMI recordings almost exactly, we get the slow version, and this performance cleaves very much to the familiar stereo reading in outline and pacing.

That this is so in no way devalues the release of this deeply expressive and hugely communicative performance. Klemperer was in good spirits during his Stockholm sojourn and the notes report him looking ten years younger, laughing and joking, and engaging in uncurdled wit and mockery. I dare say that one need not care overmuch about his psychological state to enjoy the performance on its own terms - and further that this changed mood could hardly be inferred from the performance. Still, as with Furtwängler, it seems to me that Klemperer was at his greatest in the Eroica. This latest example of his way with it demonstrates yet again the quality of orchestral balancing of which he was so eloquent a master, the architectural buttressing, the control of tempi and tempo relationships. We also recognise the familiar way he brings the winds forwardly into the soundscape - kudos here to the flute and clarinet principals.

My own preference is for the more swiftly-paced Klemperer, in which the sense of cumulative power remains tantamount but this realisation makes powerful claims on the collector not least for evidence of a transitional period between the two tempo realisations. Above all, though, it is splendidly interpreted and performed.

The coupling is Mozart’s K201 Symphony. He recorded this with the New Philharmonia in 1965, another very familiar recording. This Medici incarnation is with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, made in 1958. It’s very slightly tighter than the later commercial stereo LP, though differences in orientation are really minimal. Tempi are generally relaxed though there’s a tensile spine running throughout that saves the opening Allegro moderato from stodginess. String textures are broadly clear, though hardly translucent. He takes an affectionate but not indulgent tempo for the slow movement and phrases with warmth. The finale is certainly con spirito with plenty of lower string dynamism.

I tend to refer to these broadcast retrievals, since they complement an existing commercial discography, as ancillary - which in a sense they are. This one is too, but it broadens Klemperer’s orchestra base on disc, and reinforces the changeable quality of his interpretations forcibly and movingly.

Jonathan Woolf