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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No.29 in A major, K201, [29.47]
Serenade No.13 in G major, K525, ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ [17.42]
Symphony No.41 in C major, K551, ‘Jupiter’ [30.05]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. Kingsway Hall, London 8-9 October 1954, 25 March 1956, 6-7 March 1962

This is Volume 3 of the ongoing Pristine series of refurbished Klemperer recordings. I have given the other two enthusiastic reviews, and with one small caveat, do so again. The refurbishment of sound is a model of its kind. Tape hiss is virtually eliminated, and the qualities found in the previous issues – orchestral clarity, the immense advantage of divided strings, forward woodwinds, a firm sense of architecture and direction, steady pulse yet with that spring Klemperer managed at even the slowest speeds – are all present here. No less apparent is Klemperer’s evident love of these works: he was a great Mozartian, with a keen sense of theatre, and the sense of the dramatic is evident here. Of course, these are not ‘period performances’ and there is little of the salon or the courtly bow about them. This is tough, forthright, sinewy Mozart, with (musically) revolutionary overtones, looking forward to the nineteenth century.

Symphony 29 was always a particular Klemperer favourite, and no corners are cut here. A strong sense of purpose is evident from the opening bars, and it takes little time in the opening bars for this to be apparent. This is a genuine Allegro moderato, with detail emerging throughout: it is moderate in speed, but in no sense an idle wallowing: one can walk steadily yet without lingering. And, in the ensuing Andante, the sense of a walking pace is captured perfectly. The Menuetto is perhaps more rustic than elegant, but it fits neatly within Klemperer’s overall conception. The finale Allegro con spirit has real excitement about it.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik does not seem an obvious piece for Klemperer. Some might expect it to be treated as a mini symphony, as was Klemperer’s way in his recording of Strauss waltzes, and certainly it is evident that here we have an overview more integrated than just a suite of four movements. For all that, there is a lightness as well as a certain masculine grace, and benefits of antiphonal violins is an object lesson to those conductors who do not do divide first and second groups. This is not the only way to play this piece, but one worthy of investigation by any serious Mozartian.

As for the Jupiter Symphony, this is a very fine performance from 1962, foreshadowing Beethoven, not least in the scale of the conception. All the Klemperer hallmarks are here, building to a powerful climax in the final movement. If this were the only Klemperer performance we had, we should be satisfied. But his earlier mono recording from 1954, available in a Warner/EMI box, takes fire in a way absent here: the final movement in particular is ecstatic, Dionysian, in a way that is unmatched, and the whole symphony has an urgency not quite there a decade later.

But, for all that, these are inspired performances worthy of your attention.

Michael Wilkinson

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