Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard [Classical] Wagner, Anton Bruckner, Otto Klemperer|
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 "Romantic"
Listen to Samples
One of about a dozen Klemperer "keepers"
Into | everywhereandnowhere | 02/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am not a big fan of "Klemp," as many of his admirers call him, but this is definitely one of his best recordings, imo.
Of more than 200 Bruckner recordings, this is not one I come back to often, but I gave it another listen a few days ago, and I did find it to be a very satisfying reading. The last time I listened to it was several years ago, and while I found things to admire about it--esp. the gloriously clear and full horn sound--I hadn't yet developed a taste for Bruckner as brisk as Klemperer performs it here.
I have always found most of Klemper's recordings, esp. those of his last decade or so, to be a bit problematic, and the interpretative profile of many of these performances to be baffling, i.e. what sense does it make to play the scherzos of the Bruckner and Beethoven (like the grating scherzo of his last Beethoven Ninth) symphonies so interminably slow, while playing the slow movements so briskly they are almost as long as--or in some cases even longer than--the scherzos? Some of his very late recordings probably shouldn't have even been released--like the hatchet job he did on the Bruckner Eighth, taking two huge cuts from the finale, and still playing it so slow it was almost as long as the movement usually is W/O cuts! And even when his tempos in the outer movments were acceptable, they were often rigidly paced.
However, this Bruckner Fourth is quite good, and much better than the Bavarian RSO version, which has a finale that is too terse, esp. in the coda, imo. The Philharmonia Fourth is proportioned in such a way, that it indeed brings to mind Beethoven at times. This is about as fast as I'd ever like to hear the outer movements of this symphony done, but it works: it brings to mind the classic Kabasta version from the '40's, but I prefer Klemperer's because he chose the Nowak version which brings back the opening horn call in the coda of the finale (perhaps the only place in Bruckner's symphonies, where I think Nowak "scores" over Haas).
This is one case where Klemperer's brisker approach to a slow movement is very effective: for some reason, most conductors of the Fourth choose a tempo for the "andante quasi allegretto" that is just too slow, making it sound like a dirge...I sometimes get the impression that they are trying to make it sound more like one of the late Bruckner adagios, when imo it is more akin to the slow movements of symphonies 1-3, and sounds lovelier at a more flowing tempo. However, after a refreshingly-paced slow movement, Klemperer once again turns in a curiously slow scherzo, but that is the only real snag in this performance.
Like the first two movements, Klemperer's finale has a refreshingly fast pace. Jochum might be my favorite interpreter of this movement, and Klemperer's reading is similarly paced, if a little more tight-lipped than Jochum. As much as I love Bruckner, god bless him, most of his finales just aren't very effective--with the notable, and most obvious, exceptions being the wonderful finales to the Fifth and Eighth: his finales tend to be a bit monotonous, and their codas are frequently outshined by his first movement codas. If the finale of the Fourth is played too slow--with Celibidache being the most glaring example of this--it can become perhaps his most monotonous finale, despite some good thematic material. In a slow, inflexibly paced, performance, the main theme (which some non-Brucknerite friends of mine have likened to the theme from Lawrence of Arabia) can seem to return about two times too many. But Klemperer doesn't let this movement drag, yet he broadens the majestic coda--which equals the coda of the first movement in quality, when the opening horn theme is brought back--satisfyingly enough that we feel like we have reached some sort of a hard-won summit. In Klemperer's Bavarian RSO performance, which I find uncomfortably paced almost throughout, he does more of a headlong rush through the coda, so that there is not the same triumphant feeling at the end.
As an aside, other notable Bruckner conductors whose otherwise great Bruckner Fourths are lessened (imo) by not including the (Nowak) return of the opening horn call at the end are Karajan (yes, "Karajan-bashers," his 1970's DG fourth WAS an otherwise great one, and he was one conductor who got the slow movement just right), Walter, and Wand. This is a good example of why it is not necessarily the best interpretative approach to stick rigidly with one editor or the other for the whole Bruckner cycle: Haas has its merits and Nowak has it's merits, and imo it makes much more sense to decide which edition to use on a symphony-by-symphony basis.
This Fourth is definitely one for any fairly inclusive Bruckner collection. While I'm at it, my other favorite Klemperer recordings (and I'm talking about the EMI/Angel's here, unless otherwise indicated) are his Beethoven Third and Sixth Symphonies (his other Beethoven symphony recordings just don't do much for me, but his Fidelio does live up to its classic status); his Mahler Second is a pleasant surprise (the outer movements of his Mahler Ninth are good, too, but the inner movements, once again, are just too slow), and his Das Lied von Erde more than lives up to its classic status. I also enjoy his Brahms First and Second Symphonies (The Third and Fourth are too slow, and rigidly paced), and German Requiem; and his Weber overtures. Other than the present Bruckner Fourth, I feel that his best recorded Bruckner performance is the live Eighth that he recorded with the Cologne RSO in 1957 (making his stodgy, sliced-and-diced, EMI Eighth from a decade later seem all the more baffling). His Bruckner Ninth has more good moments than bad, but his Fifth and Seventh are too rigid, and I think his legendary Sixth is overrated: of Sixths with a similar profile--i.e. first movement on the slow side, slow movement on the fast side--I prefer the Keilberth BPO performance on Teldec (grab the latter, if it turns up used).
One final note about the disc in question: it's unimaginative enough to include Wagner's Siegfried Idyll as a filler, AGAIN (I wonder how many times EMI has "stapled" this on to one of Klemperer's Bruckner and Mahler recordings), but to actually put it on the disc BEFORE the Bruckner Fourth is big label marketing at its most lame."
On second thought...
emmkay | NY | 11/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Way back when it was included on LP in a collection of romantic masterpieces, this recording was my first introduction to the music of Bruckner. Upon rehearing it on CD now many years later, I can still see what about this recording ignited my fascination with Bruckner's sound world. But after hearing many others (live and recorded) in the intervening time, I no longer consider this one of the top interpretations.
Make no mistake. This is a wonderful performance. The orchestral sound is glorious and the brass in particular are flawless. Balancing and phrasing are very tastefully done. But Klemperer's stoic adherence to a steady, almost unvaried tempo throughout each movement somewhat robs the piece of its expressive potential.
Klemperer's version neither has the inexorable forward propulsion of Jochum, nor does he revel in Bruckner's sonic edifice the way Celibidache does. Klemperer understates the vertical aspects of the work. The dramatic intensity brought out through subtle tempo changes by Barenboim or Wand is equally absent. As mentioned, the orchestra sounds marvellous, but the coloring is rather uniform throughout (though he acheievs one of the most magical atmospheres on record in the opening of the Scherzo!). Klemperer makes sparing use of the possibilities offered by Bruckner's varied use of musical texture and orchestration, which could have been emphasized to make the structure more vivid and the emotional drama more palpable. Missing therefore is that last bit that would take this performance across the threshold and into Brucknerian Nirvana."
A Wonderful 4th
Ryan Kouroukis | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 04/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm so glad EMI has released Klemp's studio 4th for us all, it's an important document to the Bruckner and Klemperer discography.What makes this 4th different from other 4th's is how free it sounds and how "un-romantic" it is. It is played as if a live performance, like attaca! Nowadays you hear over-the-top Bruckner, totally impassioned and completely schmaltzy, but when Klemp conducts, he stays clear of all that, and gives you sheer beauty of sound and noble objectivity in interpretation. Not to say that I don't like Bruckner over the top, it's just good to have both ways to choose from.But these guys at EMI keep coupling Klemp's recordings with that Siegfried Idyll...I admit, it's probably the best recording of it out there, but there are way more rare and discontinued Klemp recordings out there for them to re-issue. The new series is fantastic, the liner notes have a detailed essay all about Otto Klemperer, and I really hope and pray EMI will release more "Klemp's" under the new "Great Artists of the Century" label."