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
and Symphony No.5 are more energetic than the stereo
Listen to these three Mozart symphonies, however, and you may well
wonder where the second part of that conventional judgement came from.
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
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.
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
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.
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,
Iphigénie en Aulide
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
. 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
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
and there’s very little to choose. The EMI is, if anything, just a
little more secure.
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
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
) or Nimbus (NI7827, 2 CDs – review
and still well worth hearing.