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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Bist du bei mir BWV 508, arr. Klemperer [3:28] (1)
Air from Suite no.3 BWV 1068 [6:24] (2)
Magnificat in D BWV 243 [29:16] (3)
Brandenburg Concerto no.5 in D BWV 1050 [20:42](4)
Anna Báthy (soprano) (3), Judit Sándor (soprano) (3), Magda Tiszay (contralto) (3), Lajos Somogyvári (tenor) (3), Grörgy Littasy (bass) (3), Oliver Nagy (continuo) (3), Sandor Margittay (organ) (3), Tibor Ney (violin) (4), János Szebenyi (flute) (4), Annie Fischer (piano) (4), Budapest Chorus (3), Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (1, 2), Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra (3, 4)/Otto Klemperer
rec. live, 11 February 1945 (1), 16 December 1945 (2), 13 January 1950 (3, 4), Los Angeles (1, 2), studios of Radio Budapest (3, 4)
GUILD GHCD 2360 [60:38]

Experience Classicsonline

Amidst a swathe of recent Klemperer releases — new and old, studio and live — comes this rather tangential affair from Guild. I say tangential, not because of any inherent peculiarity, or irrelevance, but because the performances derive from rather under-documented periods of Klemperer’s peripatetic life. These are covered in the booklet notes, which are written by Claudio von Foerster who also seems to have provided the master material, though someone should surely have tidied up his approximate English.

We open in Los Angeles in 1945. Bist du bei mir is a famous ‘non-Bach’ Bach piece, buried in Anna Magdalena Bach’s Notebook. Klemperer has the strings of the local orchestra at hand to present a languorous arrangement (his own) seemingly out to out-Stoky Stokowski. Klemperer was on record as having hugely admired the string tone Stokowski managed to produce with the Philadelphia, so maybe it was his aim to attempt likewise. What he can’t replicate however is Stokowski’s sense of vitality and intensity in Bach, however it was achieved and despite the liberties he took. By contrast the Air from the Third Suite is an unmitigated mistake, taken at a terribly slow tempo, lacking variety of articulation and any semblance of animation.

At this point we leave LA, and return to Europe for 1950 performances from Budapest. A number of Hungarian live recordings have circulated over recent years that do something to illustrate the breadth of his performance life in the city. There’s a certain amount of Wagner, for instance. Here there is more Bach and it does, at least, consolidate the disc with stronger evidence of his affinities with the composer — affinities that were later to be explored more fully, and deeply, in London with the Philharmonia.

His tempos for the Magnificat in D are vigorous and sometimes even bracing; similar to the kind of tempos Hermann Scherchen was taking in Bach, but without quite Scherchen’s sense of purpose. He has a rather uneven line up of solo vocalists and a rather ragged chorus; also a piano continuo. It’s probably best to concentrate the high points of the performance—which means glossing something like the choral Fecit potentiam — and admire instead the felicitous flautists, the laudable, if taxed tenor, the decent sopranos and the neat bass. The Brandenburg Concerto that follows is much better. The Budapest Radio Symphony Orchestra is on good form; violinist Tibor Ney is only so-so for some of the time, and his intonation comes under pressure. I wonder if János Szebenyi was one of the flautists in the Magnificat. I assume so; he’s very good, once again. The real star though is Annie Fischer who plays beautifully, and commandingly, throughout. There isn’t the sense of chamber intimacy in the central movement that others have cultivated, but that’s probably not the intention. What emerges is a good performance, well performed (mostly) and very decently transferred.

I can’t say this is an especially compelling release for most listeners. For Klemperer stalwarts it fills in geographical and temporal gaps, perhaps, but on stylistic and interpretative grounds needs to be approached with a degree of caution.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Christopher Howell




























































































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