Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 7 in A major Op. 92 [38:12];
Symphony No. 8 in F major Op. 93 [27:23];
Overture to Egmont Op. 84 [9:58]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. live, Vienna, 2 June (No 7), 4 June (No 8), 31 May (Overture) 1960
IDIS 6623 [75:37]

This is the fourth disc of IDISís series of Klempererís Beethoven Vienna concerts that I have reviewed. It has the same characteristics as earlier issues Ė variable but generally poor recording; I do not know to what extent Danilo Profumoís re-mastering has improved the original tapes or how it compares with other issues of this material. Thereís minimal presentation and the performances are very different from those to which we are accustomed today. However their virtues greatly outweigh these serious defects.
Klempererís studio recordings are well known. Highly rated in their day they now occupy a place of honour but are perhaps more respected than loved. He was very much a conductor who preferred live performance. Recordings of such performances, in particular those issued by Testament, have revealed a much more dynamic and exciting approach. It is not that the generally slower than usual speeds found on his studio recordings were abandoned; rather that there is additional drive and conviction. Klempererís usual supreme virtues of clarity of texture and structure are retained. In Symphony No. 8, for instance, the first movement is taken at what is clearly three in a bar rather than the virtual one in a bar normally favoured by conductors who now adopt the composerís metronome marking of dotted minim equals 69. There is nonetheless no feeling of the movement lumbering. This is achieved by much clearer articulation than is usually possible at the faster speed. The repeated quavers in cellos and basses soon after the start are audible and they help to push the music forward. Similarly the slower pace enables the later sforzandi on second and third beats to make much more impact. The internal balance is always carefully adjusted to ensure that the musical argument is never allowed to flag. The first movement repeat is made in No. 8 but not in No. 7 Ė common decisions at the time of these performances.
As I have said in reviewing earlier issues in this series, these are very much discs for the collector with other versions already; preferably more recent and better recorded versions. The recording quality can be wearing if listened to at length and there are several oddities of balance that may well be due more to microphone placement than to the conductorís whim. Nevertheless this remains a disc to treasure as a reminder of just how great a conductor Klemperer was in these works in his prime.
John Sheppard

A disc to treasure as a reminder of just how great a conductor Klemperer was in these works in his prime.

Reviews of other releases in this series
6610 - Symphonies 1 & 3
6612 - Symphonies 2 & 5
6615 - Symphony 9
6619 - Symphonies 4 & 6