Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphonies, Overtures, Serenades
Philharmonia Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
See full track list and recording information below
EMI CLASSICS 4 04361 2 [8 CDs: 9:55:41]
The name of Klemperer remains linked to that of Beethoven. The image persists
of a style too heavy and massive to be ideal in Mozart. Yet, as Richard Osborne’s
informative notes to this set point out, Mozart punctuated Klemperer’s
career from almost the beginning to the very end. As early as 1914 he had
conducted Così fan tutte. By 1920 his unsentimental, classically
direct Mozart was arousing critical attention. A performance of the Haffner
Symphony in Sweden in 1946 led directly to his appointment to Budapest Opera,
while a 1951 Jupiter finally convinced Walter Legge that Klemperer
was worth signing up. The Jupiter was the opening salvo, in 1954, of
the legendary Philharmonia/Klemperer collaboration. The K.375 Serenade, with
the wind band of what was now the New Philharmonia, brought the curtain down
on Klemperer’s career in 1971.
Here we have, as far as I know, all the “official” Philharmonia/New
Philharmonia EMI recordings, including duplications, of works for orchestra
alone. The four operatic recordings are issued separately, while the Horn
Concertos, with Alan Civil, and a Piano Concerto with Barenboim, are to be
found in a box dedicated to Klemperer’s concerto collaborations. A few
earlier recordings and various live recordings, some more official than others,
have been sporadically available. They shed some light on the development
of Klemperer’s performing style, in particular the issue of his slow
tempi. As far as purely orchestral works are concerned, no performance seems
to have come to light of any work that he did not also take into the studio
in this last phase.
I’ve patiently listed the contents of the discs at the foot of the review.
If you can find any logic - Mozart-wise or Klemperer-wise - to what seems
to me a random, higgledy-piggledy sequence, please use our Bulletin Board.
I’d love to know. For my own listening - and writing - I organized it
into a chronological Klemperer-sequence.
Klemperer had first conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1951. On the programme
was a performance of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony that, as
Richard Osborne tells us, “largely dispelled” Walter Legge’s
residual doubts over the wisdom of backing Klemperer as a major EMI artist
for the coming years. Negotiations were concluded in 1952 and October-November
1954 saw the first Klemperer/Philharmonia/Legge collaboration - the “Jupiter”
and Mozart’s 29th Symphony. Klemperer had mightily impressed
Legge with a performance of this latter in Milan earlier the same year.
Modern listeners may find the initial attack of no. 29 somewhat puzzling.
Not only is the tempo slow but the phrasing is practically all legato, with
no space between the opening two notes, for example. It seems this subdued
opening, this lack of an energetic profile to the theme, is how Klemperer
sees it, since it is played the same way every time it appears. From the first
forte passage the music gains a stately stride with textures that are full
yet clear. Above all, a very special radiance shines through it. If Klemperer
is not much interested in the rococo aspects of early Mozart, he never lets
us forget that this music is the product of the age of enlightenment. The
following andante similarly has a steady tread combined with warm but unsentimental
phrasing. If you think by now you’ve got Klemperer’s Mozart summed
up, the fiercely, almost viciously protesting Minuet will come as a shock,
as will the abrasive finale.
The “Jupiter” is a pretty forceful affair. The first movement
is proudly, even brusquely pulsating, the second is definitely in 3 not 6.
In other hands it might have seemed too fast, but Klemperer’s beautifully
shaped phrasing lends it a grave serenity. The Minuet is strong and vital,
the Finale so fast as to risk sounding uncomfortable, especially since Klemperer
pushes on inexorably. I must say I’d have preferred a little more breathing
space. Interestingly Klemperer, having omitted the first movement repeat,
gives the first repeat in the Finale. Presumably the aim is to make it the
longest movement of the four.
1955 was largely taken up with the famous first mono recordings of Beethoven
3, 5 and 7. 1956 was the Mozart bicentenary and Klemperer was as busy with
it as anyone. In March came “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, the “Serenata
Notturna” and the C minor Adagio and Fugue. “Nachtmusik”
is robust and firm in its step but, at tempi that probably didn’t sound
particularly slow back then, it also has a good deal of grace. Much care is
taken over phrasing and dynamics. It has to be added that ensemble isn’t
always watertight, and this seems to disturb more in Mozart than in Beethoven
or the romantics.
The presence of timpani in the “Serenata Notturna” often tempts
conductors to make a rather boorish thing out of it. Klemperer amuses himself
by teasing out Viennese sweetness where you’d least expect him to. The
drums are well in the background. Less unexpectedly, he gets maximum profundity
from the C minor Adagio and a gruff vigour from the Fugue.
From 19 to 25 July, with just one day of rest half-way, Klemperer set down
five more symphonies.
No.25 actually came on the last day. The first movement is amazingly fiery.
The second is as if suspended in time. Basically serene, at quite a swift
tempo, the dark colours of the bassoon and horn counter-melodies lend the
proceedings an air of profound unease. The Minuet is stern, the Finale dramatic
in the truest sense. Brisk rather than dashing, it unfolds like an operatic
finale, every theme announcing a new character or a new twist to the events.
This was the first performance so far that had me reaching for the word “great”.
The “Linz” is outstanding too. I was about to say the abiding
impression is of a fiery vitality, but I realized that, in truth, no element
dominates over the others. Klemperer’s response to the meaning, colour
and character of every phrase is extraordinarily detailed. If his Mozart was
never rococo and frilly, there’s grace where required. If he was basically
unsentimental, there’s real warmth in the slow movement. This is a performance
that needs to be heard many times.
Was the success of these two recordings the reason that no later stereo versions
were made of either? Klemperer certainly retained his affection for no.25.
I recall it was included in one of the very last concerts he conducted, and
most critics felt it the highlight of the evening.
In the slow introductions to nos. 38 and 39 Klemperer extracts a maximum of
Don Giovanni-like strength and gravity, without heaviness. Thereafter
the “Prague” also gets a terse, briskly energized performance.
I found plenty to admire in the fierce, fiery first movement but found myself
hustled through the rest without sufficient breathing space. The slow movement
is almost perfunctory.
No. 39 also has a vital first movement - the “Eroica” parallels
predictably engaged Klemperer. Nor does he linger over the second movement,
but this time I found him right inside the music, breathing it and expressing
it. The Minuet has a purposeful stride - no Austrian charm in the trio, with
almost caustic attention paid to the second clarinet’s busy part. The
Finale may seem steady at first, but this soon proves the maximum speed at
which all the notes will sound really brilliant. With the result that it ends
up by sounding almighty fast.
I wouldn’t quite produce this 39 to convert those who say Klemperer’s
methods were doubtfully suited to Mozart. Given the methods, though, and unlike
the “Prague”, 39 shows them somewhere near their best.
Klemperer’s 40th was always more controversial. It came out
on LP coupled with the earlier G minor, no. 25; Klemperer clearly wished the
two works to appear complementary. This they certainly do. If 25 was all fire
and drama, the submissive poignancy with which the first movement of no. 40
steals in relates the work to the Requiem. None of the drive and drama of
Toscanini or Furtwängler here. On the other hand, the sinking tonality
at the beginning of the development has rarely been so moving. The Andante
is spacious but the actual sound is lean, the climaxes uncompromisingly spare.
The Minuet has a sort of gruff grace while the Finale begins so slowly one
almost gasps. With brilliant string articulation, though, this tempo soon
begins to sound the fastest one possible. The second subject fits this tempo
beautifully. One is left reflecting that conductors who take a faster tempo
either put on the brakes here or barge through unfeelingly. On its own terms
this is a remarkable performance, one with a power to leave you wondering
if its own terms might be Mozart’s as well.
How typical of Klemperer that he should have concluded his 1956 Mozart sessions
with the “little” G minor symphony rather than complete his set
of the “last six”. 1957-1959 were notably busy with Beethoven
and Brahms, so the “last six” were completed only in 1960. First,
however, he set down a recording of the Entführung which seems
low key at the beginning but soon has a sizzling vitality since the strings
can really play the inner parts at this slightly-slower-than-usual tempo.
His placing of the second violins on the right means we really hear them at
it, too. Slightly odder is his relegation of the “Turkish” percussion
elements - so greatly relished in Beecham’s roughly contemporary recording
- to virtual inaudibility. Together with a stern rendering of the Andante
section this makes for a concentration on the musical aspects. You wouldn’t
necessarily guess that a comic opera is about to begin. Klemperer hoped to
conduct a recording of the complete opera in his very last years. If I remember
rightly a cast was actually assembled and, in the event, gave a Festival Hall
performance under another conductor.
The “Haffner” shows Klemperer’s Mozart at its very finest.
The opening may strike one as a tad slow, but there’s no sentimental
slackening for the answering phrases and the whole first movement is illumined
as with a radiant inner light. Likewise the second movement is devoid of rococo
airs and graces, yet it is beautifully poised, without an ounce of romantic
fat. The minuet does seem a pompous strut. But it wasn’t in Klemperer’s
DNA to do a minuet at a tempo that wouldn’t fit the trio, and the trio
here has a lovely ländler-like gait. The finale - well, I look like repeating
myself every time a finale comes up. When it starts you think, gosh, it’s
slow. But then comes brilliant string articulation that makes it actually
seem fast, every new idea is characterized as in an opera finale, when a new
character comes on stage. It’s worth coming to terms with Klemperer
In 1962 Klemperer returned to Mozart in a big way, replacing earlier mono
or rudimentary stereo recordings of the “Prague” and the last
I found a definite gain only in no. 39. The tempi are only marginally slower
and the result lends the reading a stature it just missed before. This is
Mozart seen with Beethovenian hindsight, but this symphony can take it. If
the first movement has an “Eroica”-like grandeur, the stomping
minuet now exudes enjoyment and the finale has a Puckish relish that looks
to Beethoven’s Fourth. The second movement, too, has an outdoor songfulness
that relates it more to Beethoven Four than to the “Eroica”. This
now joins the select list of Klemperer’s finest Mozart performances.
For the rest I was even doubtful whether the recordings themselves improved
matters. It’s a more diffused sound compared with the lean quality of
the earlier essays, as if a blunt instrument is being used to shape the music.
On the other hand, is this a reflection of Klemperer’s growing tendency
to concentrate on the grand design and let details fend for themselves? Fine
as this can be in Beethoven and German romantics, the results here seem to
show that Mozart really needs detailed sculpting of the single phrases. As
it is the music trundles along grandly without greatly engaging this listener,
at least. Occasional moments of incandescence only show that Klemperer was
by now less able, or willing, to really stretch his players.
Having complained that the “Prague” was almost hustled along before,
I certainly didn’t think that here. I suppose there’s gain in
the slow movement but the finale is dispiriting.
So is most of no.40. Oddly enough the second movement has an identical timing,
yet it sounds slower and heavier nonetheless. Readers who have noticed that
the overall times of these two symphonies are actually shorter than before
should be told that first movement repeats, present in the earlier recordings,
are here dropped.
When I saw that the first movement of the “Jupiter” had increased
from 8.01 to 9.17 I supposed it had gained its repeat - missing before. But
no, it’s just an almighty lot slower. Frankly, it plods nor do the orchestra
seem convinced, with several spurts into what must have seemed to them a more
natural tempo, clawed back by the wet blanket on the rostrum. The rest is
better and the finale rather grand, but none of it’s really as fine
1963 saw recordings of symphonies 31 and 34 and the Gran Partita. This
project to set down three works he hadn’t recorded before certainly
sounds to have been closer to his heart than the previous year’s batch
of symphonies. If tempi are not breakneck there are none that are strikingly
slow and there is abundant vitality plus, in the Partita, a droll sprightliness.
The “Paris” has a D major refulgence similar to Klemperer’s
“Haffner”, while in no. 34 he particularly relishes the mock C
major pomposity of the first movement, with its several curious wrong turns.
In the Partita he relishes the individual colours of the instruments,
rather than having them blend smoothly like a harmonium. The chunky accompaniment
to the Adagio third movement seems as much like a Stravinskian neo-classical
take on Mozart as the real thing. Sublimity is there when needed - the penultimate
variation of the 6th movement - but is not overdone or applied
where inappropriate. Mozartian grace and elegance is not lacking, yet the
final effect is not of an aristocratic dinner party but a timeless celebration
of something deeper.
If anyone has doubts about Klemperer’s Mozartian credentials, this trio
of performances might be a good place to start.
The Gran Partita had been produced by Ronald Kinloch Anderson, the
first of the recordings discussed not to have been masterminded by Walter
Legge. Legge, as is known, was coming to feel that Klemperer was no longer
able to deliver, and 1964 was the year he tried to pull the rug from his feet
by disbanding the Philharmonia Orchestra. The last Philharmonia performance
in this box is the Zauberflöte overture. This seems to have been
extracted from the complete recording of the opera, which may account for
the quite phenomenally detailed insights on offer. Joy and lightness, but
also profound seriousness and some quite sinister elements all combine effortlessly.
Peter Andry was the producer here and for a clutch of New Philharmonia recordings
later in the year. At 4:31, Klemperer’s Così fan tutte
overture is actually swifter than the earlier Philharmonia recording under
Böhm, highly regarded in its day. I find it uncomfortable, not because
the tempo is an impossible lick - one has heard faster - but because Klemperer
barges through without breathing space. His Figaro overture, on the
other hand, would give you a fairly solidly-boiled egg at 4:45. It doesn’t
actually feel slow and is rougher and bolder than we usually hear. Klemperer
allows some old-fashioned slowing in second-subject territory and I have the
idea that the extra time is due to this.
Unreservedly fine are the overtures to Don Giovanni - drama, tragedy,
swagger and comedy - and Clemenza, full of the sort of C major splendour
he didn’t quite achieve in the Jupiter two years before. The
Masonic Funeral Music is one of Klemperer’s unassailably great
performances. Without labouring the point, he gives it a timeless depth and
stature. This alone is worth the price of the set.
The message may have reached you that Klemperer’s remakes tend to be
less desirable than his thoughts from the previous decade. There are exceptions.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik has added a few seconds to each of its movements,
yet this is a case where, if you like that sort of thing at all, you may like
this better. It all fits so perfectly together, somehow informed as by a steady,
unwavering inner light.
Something similar happened with the following year’s remake of Symphony
29. Tempi are only fractionally slower, so the Minuet is still quite fierce
and the Allegro con spirito Finale has all the spirit you could want.
If you don’t like the first movement in a moderate four - but it says
Allegro moderato, Klemperer would have pointed out - then I suppose
you won’t like this either. I find that the slight extra space gives
justification to the sublime approach. Furthermore, it is not at all heavy,
all is light and grace here and in the second movement.
Symphony 33 was new to the Klemperer discography. Was it the appearance of
the “Jupiter” theme in the first movement development that aroused
his curiosity? Whatever, the performance is extremely detailed in its phrasing,
vital and graceful by turns in the first movement and with an aura of dawning
sublimity as the “Jupiter” motif breaks through. Klemperer is
warm and tender in the second movement and quite brisk in the Minuet. The
strange tarantella-like finale has a fizzing sense of enjoyment.
Two wonderful performances.
As read by Klemperer, the C minor Serenade is a symphony in all but its reduced
instrumentation. The beginning is grave rather than fierce and the conductor
finds heart-easing grace when the major-key second subject arrives. The tempo
is not all that slow. The second movement has a hymn-like flow. The Minuet
does sound rather sour. Did Mozart really write all this C minor music to
charm his patron or was he protesting in some way? That’s how it sounds
here. The finale, too, while starting off in quite a sprightly fashion - and
the final pay-off is certainly perky - takes some doleful turns along the
way. A slightly odd performance of a rather odd piece.
Post-1967, Klemperer set down his notoriously slow-motion versions of Figaro
and Così fan tutte. The Serenade K.375 was his last recording
session of all. The same piece was included the following week in what proved
to be his last concert. EMI waited six years before issuing the recording.
This sounds ominous, but in reality all is gentle and serene. Tempi are comfortable
but not untenably slow. Once set they do not drag, as sometimes happened with
late Klemperer. Just possibly, a select group of eight of London’s finest
wind-players - unnamed, unfortunately - were better equipped than the full
orchestra to help the physically debilitated Klemperer obtain what he wanted.
Richard Osborne quotes the producer, Suvi Raj Grubb, as saying “there
was an extraordinarily single-minded concentration by Klemperer on those sessions
… all his energies were focused on the music”. This shines through
and the recording is a worthy pendant to the other Serenades heard in this
In short, this Mozart box seems to contain about the same proportion of great
performances, near misses and damp squibs as all the other Klemperer boxes
in this series. It certainly shows that his style was not inimical to Mozart.
His finest Mozart performances are a match for any, and actually stand up
better today than some that were more fêted in their own time.
Klemperer’s finest Mozart performances are a match for any, and actually
stand up better today than some that were more fêted in their own time.
Masterwork Index: Mozart symphonies
CD 1 [76:55]
Così fan tutte K.588 - Overture [4:31]
New Philharmonia, 29-30 October 1964, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
Symphony no. 25 in G m K.183 [19:17]
Philharmonia, 25 July 1956, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
Adagio and Fugue in C m K.546 [8:36]
Philharmonia, 27 March 1956, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
Symphony no. 29 in A K.201 [25:16]
New Philharmonia, 20, 21 & 23 September 1965, Abbey Road Studio no.
Symphony no. 31 in D K.297 - “Paris” [19:49]
Philharmonia, 16-18 October 1963, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
CD 2 [78:55]
Symphony no. 33 in B flat K.319 [23:02]
New Philharmonia, 20, 21 & 23 September 1965, Abbey Road Studio no.
Symphony no. 34 in C K.338 [23:07]
Philharmonia, 18-19 October 1963, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
Symphony no. 40 in G m K.550 [26:56]
Philharmonia, 21 & 23 July 1956, Kingsway Hall
Masonic Funeral Music K.477
New Philharmonia, 9 & 14 November 1964, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
CD 3 [78:54]
Symphony no. 35 in D - “Haffner” K.385 [18:17]
Philharmonia, 22-23 October 1960, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
Symphony no. 36 in C - “Linz” K.425 [26:59]
Philharmonia, 19 July 1956, Kingsway Hall
Symphony no. 38 in D - “Prague” K.504 [25:53]
Philharmonia, 26-28 March 1962, Kingsway Hall
Die Zauberflöte K.620 - Overture [7:19]
Philharmonia, 24-26 & 31 March, 1-4, 6-8 & 10 April 1964, Kingsway
CD 4 [77:50]
Serenade in G - “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” K.525 [19:09]
New Philharmonia, 29-30 October, 4 November 1964, Kingsway Hall
Symphony no. 39 in E flat K.543 [28:24]
Philharmonia, 26-28 March 1962, Kingsway Hall
Symphony no. 41 in C - “Jupiter” K.551 [30.00]
Philharmonia, 6-7 March 1962, Kingsway Hall
CD 5 [75:29]
Serenade in B flat - “Gran Partita” K.361 [48:17]
London Wind Quintet & Ensemble, 26 January, 10-13 December 1963, Abbey
Road Studio no. 1
Serenade in E flat K.375 [27:04]
New Philharmonia Wind Ensemble, 20-21 September 1971, Abbey Road Studio
CD 6 [56:06]
Serenade in D - “Serenata notturna” K.239 [13:00]
Philharmonia, 25 March 1956, Abbey Road Studio no. 1
Serenade in C minor K.388 [19:50]
New Philharmonia Wind Ensemble, 9-11, 14-15 March 1967, Abbey Road Studio
Die Entführung aus dem Serail K.384 - Overture [5:50]
Philharmonia, 29 September 1960, Kingsway Hall
Le nozze di Figaro K.492 - Overture [4:45]
Don Giovanni K.527 - Overture [6:56]
La clemenza di Tito K.621 - Overture [5:17]
New Philharmonia, 29-30 October, 9 & 14 November 1964, Abbey Road Studio
CD 7 [77:14]
Symphony no. 29 in A K.201 [24:42]
Philharmonia, 8-9 October 1954, Kingsway Hall
Symphony no. 38 in D - “Prague” K.504 [27:00]
Philharmonia, 20, 23 & 24 July 1956, Kingsway Hall
Symphony no. 40 in G m K.550 [25:24]
Philharmonia, 8 & 28 March 1962, Kingsway Hall
CD 8 [74:18]
Symphony no. 39 in E flat K.543 [27:35]
Philharmonia, 23-24 July 1956, Kingsway Hall
Symphony no. 41 in C - “Jupiter” K.551 [28:51]
Philharmonia, 5-6 October, 24 November 1954, Kingsway Hall
Serenade in G - “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” K.525 [17:40]
Philharmonia, 25 March 1956, Abbey Road Studio no. 1