Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Otto Klemperer conducts Beethoven: vol. 3
Symphony no. 9 in D minor op.125 (1824) [70:14]
The Creatures of Prometheus, Overture op. 43 (1801) [5:49]
Wilma Lipp (soprano); Ursula Boese (alto); Fritz Wunderlich (tenor); Franz Crass (bass); Wiener Singverein; Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. live, mono, Vienna, 2 (overture) and 7 June 1960
IDIS 6615 [76:06]

If there were no other live souvenir recording of Klemperer’s supremacy in this great work, I would unhesitatingly recommend that you acquire this one. The existence of such splendid accounts as the live, stereo recording from November 1957 in the Royal Festival Hall makes that endorsement far from automatic - unless, that is, you simply must have Fritz Wunderlich in the tenor part. I could make a case for saying that his participation alone is sufficient reason for buying this disc. A little aspiration in the divisions of “Freude trinken alle Wesen” apart, his singing of this murderous tenor music is simply exemplary and thrilling, once again giving me cause to doubt those who claim that his voice was rather small in person. Certainly there is nothing about the recording balance that suggests he is favoured and the live recording of his performance of the tenor role in the Verdi Requiem later this same year under conductor Hans Müller-Kray confirms that he had the vocal heft to take on roles beyond the lyric tenor category to which he supposedly belonged.

Otherwise the main interest focuses on Wilma Lipp’s lovely soprano, soaring effortlessly in the final stretta in the finale. Klemperer’s conducting and tempi are very similar to the 1957 performance which has the advantage of excellent stereo sound as opposed to the rather cramped and screechy sound here. The closeness and balance of the mono recording in 1960 are odd: the least impressive singer, Ursula Boese is heavily favoured and the effect of hearing her harmonisations highlighted rather than the top line of the melody is unsettling. Furthermore, hers is an unlovely voice: her intonation is approximate and her tone blares. Franz Crass, too, fine singer though he usually is, has problems. He sounds very nervous and ill at ease at his first entry. A tremolo intrudes, he aspirates excessively and gasps his lower notes, losing pitch. He improves, but this is not his night. Hotter for Klemperer in 1957 is much more authoritative despite a touch of the “woofiness” that crept into his voice over time. Even the Philharmonia, so assured three years earlier, here in Vienna, loses pitch and unison, too, notably at the beginnings of both the first and last movements, which sound positively squawky.

A grand performance of the overture from The Creatures of Prometheus recorded five days before the Choral Symphony makes a nice bonus.

The sound per se is perfectly tolerable, although there is a persistent fluctuating flutter in the tape that re-mastering could not remove. While reluctant to pass over Wunderlich, I would steer you towards the Testament release for the best account of Klemperer in this music, enthusiastically reviewed for MusicWeb International by Colin Anderson.

Ralph Moore

The Testament version is to be preferred.