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Erich Kleiber: Decca Recordings 1949-1955 Original Masters
Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert
Erich Kleiber: Decca Recordings 1949-1955 Original Masters
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Classical
 

      
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Some of Kleiber's Finest Recordings
Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 04/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This set is a great supplement to Kleiber's volume in the IMG "Great Conductors" series, despite some overlap (both sets contain the same account of Mozart's 40th). And, as Michael Richman notes in his review below, Decca has already issued two of these readings from Amsterdam (the 5th & Eroica) in its "Decca Legends" series. Repertoire-wise, this set also has the redundancy of TWO recordings each of Beethoven's Eroica & Pastoral symphonies. The transfers of the Amsterdam and Vienna recordings compare well with the earlier London LPs, while the Cologne Radio items are merely okay (slightly congested in comparison with the Amadeo LPs).

Of the two Eroicas, I slightly prefer the 1953 Vienna account to the 1950 Amsterdam, both sonically and interpretively. If memory serves, Kleiber was not entirely happy with the Vienna's sound and it was only issued after his death on a budget $1.98 Richmond LP. I bought my copy of that LP around 1962, off a rack at the checkout counter of my local grocery store. That was truly a different era, when classical records had a market share of about 10% versus today's measly 2% or less. I have always found the Amsterdam version a tad rough, while the Vienna's unusual observance of the lengthy exposition repeat in the 1st mvt. is perhaps a little too much of a good thing. The Vienna is more warmly played and, to my mind, it ranks with Weingartner (Opus Kura)and the live 1964 Schuricht/BPO (deleted Originals) as one of the great "straight" Eroicas. I have to confess though that, for me, Furtwangler still reigns supreme in this work (especially his live 1944 account on M&A).

In the Mozart works, the real standout item is the 1956 live #39, which is generally preferable to Kleiber's thin-sounding 1927 Berlin State Opera recording (Koch CD). This 39th is one of my favorites, along with Weingartner (IMG) & Maag (Arts). The 40th is a shade fast & clipped for my taste, but it's nonetheless an excellent rendering. The 4 Deutsche Tanze are very engaging, although the Cologne Radio's playing is rather unpolished here.

Weber's First Symphony receives here its finest recording. It would be nice if Philips could see fit to bring back the somewhat more interesting Symphony #2 under Willem van Otterloo (once on Epic LP).

I still find this brilliant Beethoven 5th from Amsterdam just a trifle hard-boiled (similarly-styled accounts by Weingartner and Schuricht are a little less relentless). Still, the virtuoso playing on display here is nothing short of remarkable - I don't think there's a conductor today who could even come close to this level of exacting execution. But again, I have to admit that Furtwangler remains my exemplar in the 5th (the 1943 wartime reading on M&A and his postwar account on Tahra, both live with the Berlin Phil.).

This magnificent 1950 Beethoven 7th has long been one of my very favorite readings. It shares with Klemperer and Carlos Kleiber the unusual pizzicato (versus arco) ending in the slow mvt. Of the two Pastorals, my allegiance is to the magnificent playing of the Concertgebouw in 1953 versus the sonically-inferior 1948 London Phil. The interpretations are quite similar, including Kleiber's "trademark" zany accelerando just prior to the Storm (which gets a truly fierce & visceral treatment in both versions).

That brings us to a pair of stellar 9ths. The Beethoven seems to be styled after Weingartner's - it's quite direct and straightforward - and, like Weingartner's, there are no repeats in the Scherzo. The highlight here is one of the most beautifully-played Adagios ever recorded. Over-all, though, I gravitate more toward the rhythmic heft of Weingartner (Opus Kura) and the incomparably spiritual readings by Furtwangler. Schubert's 9th, which Schumann called a symphony of "heavenly lengths," is given a fine statement. Here Kleiber is smaller-scale and more chaste than most, but there's no shortage of gemutlich playing. Other personal favorites include the grand rhetoric of Furtwangler (DG), the impish mischief of Clemens Krauss (Teldec), and the stately eloquence of Knappertsbusch on Orfeo (not to mention Schuricht, Mengelberg, Rosbaud, and the bubbly high spirits of Konwitschny). I suppose you could call that a lengthy list of heavenly performances!

Highly recommended.





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Erich Kleiber: The Original Master
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 01/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In a year of tributes for conductor Carlos Kleiber, it is only appropriate that Universal celebrate the father as well with this 6CD collection in the "Original Masters" series. Compiling many of the senior Kleiber's greatest recordings for the Decca label from 1949-1955, this box set will be a most welcome addition to the shelves of classical music connoisseurs. Unfortunately, this title is not without its problems. The set focuses heavily on Beethoven (more than two-thirds of the material; 3 full discs and two half discs) including two separate performances each of the "Eroica" and "Pastoral" Symphonies. Additionally one of those two 3rds (1950), and the 5th from 1953 have been previously available (and continue to be) on a single disc release in the "Decca Legends" series. And that's not the only duplicate material featured here as the 1949 performance of Mozart's 40th Symphony with the LSO was recently included in his "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" title (see my review). Finally, why UNI chose to issue this and the recent Schuricht set in clunky plastic jewel cases, instead of the normal slim paperboard box with paper sleeves for the discs, is beyond me. Overall though, "Original Masters: Erich Kleiber" is another first rate historical reissue from Universal, and the performances of the Beethoven's 7th & 9th, and Schubert's 9th, which I had never previously heard, are simply stunning. I can hardly wait for the next batch of Decca OMs next month!"