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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 38 in D Prague, K504 [25:46]
Symphony No. 39 in E flat, K543 [28:17]
Symphony No. 40 in g minor, K550 [26:54]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. 1961. ADD/stereo
BEULAH 1PD98 [80:58] Download only

Classical Classics 2
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Tragic Overture, op. 81 [12:30]
Christoph GLUCK (1714-1787)
Iphigenia en Aulide Overture [11:24]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Symphony No. 41 in C, K551 [29:51]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Prelude [10:53]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. 1960/1. ADD/stereo
BEULAH 2PDR2 [64:39] Download only

Beecham Conducts Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART

Symphony No. 34 in C Jupiter, K338 [21:14]
Clarinet Concerto in A, K622 [31:14]
Die Zauberflöte, K620, Act I, Scene 3 finale [11:36]
Jack Brymer (clarinet)
Tiana Lemnitz (soprano), Gerhard Hüsch (baritone), Heinrich Tessmer, Helge Rosvaenge (tenors) Wilhelm Strienz (bass), Favres Solisten Vereinigung
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
rec. 1937-60
BEULAH 1PDR4 [64:04] Download only

The conventional view of Klemperer’s later, stereo recordings is that they are slow and heavy by comparison with his earlier adventures for Vox and EMI.  Certainly his conducting became slower: his Vox recording of Bruckner’s Romantic Symphony was fast enough to be the first version to fit on a single LP and his Columbia mono Beethoven Eroica and Symphony No.5 are more energetic than the stereo re-makes.

Listen to these three Mozart symphonies, however, and you may well wonder where the second part of that conventional judgement came from.  The Prague is certainly treated to some measured tempi but there’s a lightness of touch that’s as much a tribute to the excellence of the early 1960s Philharmonia as to the conductor.  The slow movement is a touch slower than you may think ideal and Symphony No.39 follows too hard on the heels of No.38 but overall I enjoyed this reissue.  The recording sounds almost brand-new.

With No.39 we enter deeper waters and it requires a different, more serious approach, which it receives from Klemperer.  ‘More serious’ doesn’t have to mean ‘heavy’ and there’s plenty of flow in the allegro section of the opening movement, taken considerably faster than by Karl Böhm in his recording with the BPO from much the same period (DG Originals, 4474162: Symphonies 35-36, 38-41, 2 CDs).  I like Böhm’s Mozart – it hasn’t really dated – but I award the palm to Klemperer in this movement.

The second movement is marked andante con moto.  Klemperer’s tempo is a little too slow for me – considerably slower than Böhm – and the moto sometimes gets slightly lost but the compensation is that we are encouraged to take the movement really seriously.

The allegretto third movement chugs a little – a stately minuet, but that’s better than the breakneck speed on some more recent recordings and the finale, with repeats duly observed, goes swimmingly; for once I disagree with Trevor Harvey, whose reviews did much to inform my record purchasing in the 1960s, and who thought Klemperer’s finale lacking in humour.

Much as I enjoyed Klemperer’s account of No.39, however, there’s another Beulah recording which I prefer, from Colin Davis with the Sinfonia of London, available separately on 4BX129 – from eavb.co.uk – or with the Oboe Concerto and Symphonies Nos. 29 and 34 from Amazon UK.

No.40 was released on LP with No.41 on Columbia SAX2486 (see below).  The opening movement is measured but far from heavy: if anything, it’s a little lacking in power, but the affectionate account of the slow movement – not a quality you might expect from Klemperer – does a great deal to atone.

The recordings have come up sounding very well indeed.  I listened to the EMI transfers as streamed from Qobuz and there’s very little to choose between them and the Beulah.  The files I received for review were in wma format, which comes at a higher bit-rate than mp3 from Amazon, but I converted them myself to mp3 and there was very little loss in quality.  All in all unless you want the 3-CD set the Beulah is a worthwhile purchase.

If you like Klemperer’s Mozart, you can complete the set with his account of Symphony No.41 Jupiter, K551, also recorded with the Philharmonia in 1961, on Classical Classics 2.  The other works there are Brahms’ Tragic Overture, Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide Overtureand Wagner’s Meistersingers prelude.  Having been somewhat critical of the earlier symphonies, I took my mp3 conversion of No.40, added No.41 and played them one after the other, sitting in an armchair without the wherewithal to make notes, and really enjoyed hearing them both.

If you try these four Mozart symphony recordings and like them, I predict that you will enjoy Klemperer’s recording of Die Zauberflöte at least as much.  It’s the audio recording of this wonderful opera that I still play the most often.  (EMI/Warner 9667932, 2 mid-price CDs, no dialogue).

Klemperer’s Brahms, especially Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4, is my benchmark.  This recording of the Tragic Overture, originally released with his account of Symphony No.2 (Beulah 2BX114-7 – DL Roundup February 2012/1), is as good as it gets.  If you followed my advice to obtain the Klemperer recordings of the Brahms symphonies and overtures (now on EMI/Warner 4043382, 4 CDs, budget-price), some time ago, you will already have this overture.  You may also have obtained it with more Brahms on another Beulah release, 1PD84 – DL News 2013/16.  If not, here it is in a very good transfer.

The Gluck, as arranged by Wagner, sounds a bit weighty in this performance.  The ponderousness is the joint fault of Wagner and Klemperer, not Gluck, but the recording is exceptionally good for its age.  The Meistersinger, too, have sounded jollier but the quality of the playing of the Philharmonia and the fulsome recording make up for that.  My wife, for whom this is one of her favourite pieces of music, enjoyed Klemperer’s interpretation very much; it’s a pity that room wasn’t found for the Dance of the Apprentices and Entry of the Masters from Act III.  There’s a touch of glare on the high strings and a hint of blurring at the peaks but nothing to worry about.  I listened to the EMI transfer on the Wagner/Strauss/Klemperer 5-CD set (24834682, budget-price, track 6; also on 6782992, 2 CDs) from Qobuz and there’s very little to choose.  The EMI is, if anything, just a little more secure.

There’s another Mozart recording from Beulah to report on: Sir Thomas Beecham with three different orchestras across three decades. It contains Symphony No.34, the Clarinet Concerto in A, K622, with Jack Brymer as soloist and an excerpt from the classic 1937/8 recording of Die Zauberflöte.

The sound in the symphony is dry but not at all bad for its age and you would have to listen on headphones to hear even the slightest hint of surface noise.  No. 34 doesn’t get too many outings; it’s hardly in the same category as the great last six, Nos. 35-36 and 38-41, but it can sound charming in the right hands and Beecham gives it all his affection to rival later recordings by Maag (Decca Eloquence), Böhm (DG Eloquence) and Mackerras (Telarc).

This is a classic recording of the Clarinet Concerto, by no means outshone by Brymer’s later recordings with Colin Davis (Philips Solo) and Neville Marriner (Philips): all three are still among the best available.  The other two Brymer recordings remain in the catalogue but this version with Beecham seems no longer easy to obtain in the UK, so the Beulah album is worth having for it alone.  Brymer and Beecham linger unconscionably long in the slow movement, perhaps inspired by the mistaken notion that Mozart knew his days were numbered.  There’s no evidence for that in his letters to Constanze at the time but, however mistaken the idea may be, there’s no denying the beauty of this performance.

The sound is a trifle thin by comparison with the Klemperer recordings, made by another branch of EMI at around the same time, but more than acceptable in this transfer.  A small point: Beulah give the date as 1961 but it was released in 1960 as ASD344.

Though the extract from Zauberflöte sounds fine for its date – better than the 1940 Symphony No.34 – it’s not, for me, the ideal way to complete this album – I enjoyed it so much that it made me want to hear this recording of the whole opera, available from Naxos Historical (8.110127/8 – review) or Nimbus (NI7827, 2 CDs – review) and still well worth hearing.

Brian Wilson

 

 




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