Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 4 in C minor D417 [29:45]
Symphony No. 8 in B minor D759 [25:02]
Symphony No. 9 in C major D944 [52:21]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No 29 in A major K201 [21:44]
Concertgebouw Orchestra (No. 4); Turin Radio Orchestra (No. 8); Philharmonia Orchestra (No. 9); Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (No. 29)/Otto Klemperer
rec. Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, February 1957 (No. 4); Turin, 17 December 1956 (No. 8); Kingsway Hall, London, 1960 (No. 9); Berlin, 18 February 1956 (No. 29)
ANDROMEDA ANDRCD 9106 [54:47 + 74:04]
The sheer overwhelming physical beauty of much of Schubert’s music encourages some performers into excessive point-making, to gilding the lily at the expense of the larger structure. Klemperer was aware of the sheer beauty of the music, but his usual care over articulation, balance and phrasing makes the listener even more conscious of the way in which the composer builds up his large-scale structures and textures from the repetition and variation of the smallest phrases. Normal compositional practice, but I have seldom been so aware of the sheer compositional complexity of these works. Speeds do tend towards the slow, but this allows the listener to hear the inner parts and their articulation much more clearly. Paradoxically this makes the music sound faster and more eventful.
One of the recordings here, that of No. 9, is already familiar as it appears to be a reissue of the EMI studio recording. I do not have any other transfers of it to hand and cannot make comparisons, but in the context of the often congested-sounding radio recordings that make up the rest of the set it is amazingly good. Admittedly it sounds less so compared with more recent recordings but it is good for its age and at the very least it is adequate to bring out the very strong merits of what some might regard as a somewhat sober performance. The recordings of the other works require more tolerance from the listener although I never found them so poor as to spoil my enjoyment. I should point out that I have a high level of toleration when listening to “historic” issues.
The so-called “Tragic” Symphony (No. 4) is probably the most interesting of the performances here. It is played with real drive and energy, in spite of – or possibly because of – speeds that are slower than usual. The result is that the Symphony is less monotonous in character than it can sometimes seem in more easy-going performances. The “Unfinished” is also a performance displaying musical energy rather than speed or surface charm.
One oddity of the set is that there is an additional item not mentioned anywhere on the outside of the case - the Mozart Symphony 29. Admittedly both performance and recording are not up to the standard of the rest of the programme but it is worth hearing and I would imagine that some potential purchasers might be more keen to buy the set if they knew that it was there. However this is all of a piece with Andromeda’s apparent lack of concern for the purchaser with no information about the performances or works, and a cover picture which shows a much younger Klemperer than the age of these performances. Nonetheless the performance of the “Tragic” Symphony in particular should attract listeners beyond those who are already Klemperer enthusiasts.
Real drive and energy.