Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 6 in F major Pastoral Op. 68 [43:10]
Symphony No. 4 in B flat major Op. 60 [34:40]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. live, Vienna. 2 June 2 (No. 6) & 31 May (No. 4) 1960
IDIS 6619 CD [77:54]
I have referred in reviews of earlier volumes in this series (Vols 1 & 2; Vol. 3) to the low recording quality of this series, and should do so again. This is emphatically not an issue for anyone unable to tolerate sound which clearly shows its age. Creative listening is required and the balance appears unrealistic at times. An example of the latter is the occasional virtual inaudibility of the second violins, especially in Symphony No. 4 and odd moments where individual instruments become unexpectedly prominent. Klempererís studio recordings give a much better idea of the kind of balance he actually achieved in the concert hall as well as offering an infinitely better sound overall. Despite all the usual criticisms of their generally slow speeds I would not wish for one moment to denigrate them. The rhythmic life and wonderfully careful balance, especially in respect of the woodwind, means that the full intricacy and imagination of these scores is displayed to the listener. I have had many hours of instructive pleasure listening to them and hope to be able to continue to do so.
Nonetheless for much of the time something can be missing. The sense of danger in the music - the sense that the composer himself is reaching out into unknown territory Ė is sometimes missing. That was not the case in those of Klempererís live concerts that I was fortunate to attend, and it is not the case here. Through the at best indifferent recording and occasional performance errors the sympathetic listener will sense the conductorís clear understanding of the works as a whole. One is also aware of his detailed attention to phrasing and balance as well as the almost physical excitement which is an integral part of the music. That applies especially to the Pastoral where the usual complaints about Klempererís slow speed for the third movement seem to miss the point when the result is so invigorating. The well chosen flowing speed for the second movement avoids the sensation I sometimes get with other conductors that like Tennysonís brook this too will go on for ever.
As with the earlier volumes, IDIS provide the listener with nothing but a bare list of movements and a couple of pictures of the conductor. Notes about the circumstances of the recordings and photographs from them would have been welcome. Despite this what really matters is that this disc gives a good impression of Klemperer in the concert hall. If you are wholly hostile to his approach even this will be unlikely to convert you. However if you use imagination for what is not there due to the recording - and of course may not have been there in reality - listening to these performances is a very exhilarating experience.
Poor recording but can be a very exhilarating experience.