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Mahler: Symphony No. 7 / Klemperer: Symphony No. 2, String Quartet No. 7
Gustav Mahler, Otto Klemperer, New Philharmonia Orchestra
Mahler: Symphony No. 7 / Klemperer: Symphony No. 2, String Quartet No. 7
Genre: Classical
 

     
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A Masterpiece For That Dark And Stormy Night
R. Q. Hofacker Jr. | Basking Ridge, NJ USA | 07/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This grand and brooding and mysterious symphony finally gets the
performance it deserves. I have recordings of the Mahler Seventh (also known as "Lied der Nacht" or "Song of the Night")
conducted by Kubelik, Maazel, Abbado, and Michael Tilson Thomas,
but my favorite by far is this performance by Klemperer leading
the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

Perhaps this results from Klemperer's special insights, since he
was present in Prague in 1909 when Mahler rehearsed the premiere
performance. (Bruno Walter and a number of other young
conductors also were there.) Klemperer reported that Mahler held some 24 rehearsals before the first public performance.
According to Harry Neville's liner notes of the Angel LP album
Klemperer later wrote that Mahler's "technique was remarkable.
Each day after rehearsal he used to take the entire orchestral
score home with him for revision, polishing and retouching. We
younger musicians, Bruno Walter, Bodanzky, von Keussler and I,
would gladly have helped him, but he would not hear of it and
did it all on his own." Klemperer was about 24 at the time, but
he was about 84 when he conducted this recording.

Some critics contend that the reason for the exaggeratedly slow
tempo of the "march" in the first movement is due to Klemperer's
physical condition. They don't know the history of Mahler's
composition, which has five movements. He composed the second
and fourth movements first, which he called "nocturnes" and thus
set the theme for the whole work, which he described as being
"three night pieces; the finale, bright day. As foundation for
the whole, the first movement." But his muse froze up when he
put pen to paper for that critical first movement. More than a
year went by and he tried again, with no success. He left his
beloved Alma in their cottage at Maiernigg on Lake Wörth in
Austria and sought inspiration in the Dolomites. Unsuccessful, he came back by train but had to hire a man to row him across the lake.
According to Michael Steinberg's liner notes for BMG's CD album, Mahler later wrote: "With the first dipping of the oars, the theme of the introduction (or rather, its rhythm, its atmosphere) came to me." So Klemperer's VERY slow "march" is exactly the right tempo, the rhythm of an oarsman rowing across an alpine lake at night.

Like the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Seventh has no vocal parts. The orchestra is quite large: two piccolos, three flutes, three oboes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, three clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons, contrabassoon, tenor horn, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, tamtam, triangle, glockenspiel, tambourine, deep bells and two harps PLUS, of course, Mahler's
beloved cowbells and a string section that includes a mandolin and a guitar.

The third movement is the most mysterious, a scherzo marked "schattenhaft" or "shadowy." It conjures up images of flitting, spooky shadows and spectres, a kind of fitful half-nightmare. That's followed by the second nocturne, marked "andante amoroso," which is a serenade that includes the mandolin and guitar solos. The final movement brings up the sun with music that can remind one of Wagner's overture to "Die Meistersinger." The first CD has movements one through four, with the fifth movement on the second CD, which is rounded out with two of Klemperer's own compositions, his second symphony and his seventh string quartet.

This CD set has been out of print for quite awhile, and is difficult to find. I urge EMI to reissue it, since they've reissued the other Mahler albums of Klemperer. I don't care what some of the critics have written about this recording --
it's absolutely magnificent!

Richard Q. Hofacker, Jr.
Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA"
An Extreme 7th
Eric Trachtenberg | 07/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you've listed to von Karajan, Bernstein, Horenstein and the rest and REALLY want to go off the beaten path, Klemperer's recording of the 7th for you. His adagios are really adagio, his "nachtmusik" is about the darkest thing I have ever heard in music -- and the ending is incredibly majestic like a magnificent sunrise. However, this recording is NOT for the faint of heart or the person who is new to Mahler. (It is also unbelievably long at almost 1 hour and 50 minutes). Klemperer takes his time and the result is truly a "World Symphony". This has been my favorite CD for the last 15 years."
A revelatory performance
En.N | California, USA | 01/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I had a revelation on first hearing this recorded performance of Mahler's Seventh Symphony conducted by Otto Klemperer. It certainly differed from the headlong and frenetic Bernstein recording. With so many critics then hailing the Bernstein as definitive, how could this antithetic 100-minute marathon be valid, with its tempi being so seemingly glacial? Well, tempi aren't everything; the music that the performance conveys, is. Not halfway through the first movement, the realization that Klemperer had heard so much more in Mahler's writing than had anyone else, and was making ME hear those same things, moreso than in any other performance committed to records, struck me and shocked me. Mind you, this is the movement where Klemperer is "accused" of handling matters most differently from the "norm" that so many had accepted.

I should not have been surprised, for Klemperer often offers insights into familiar pieces such as Beethoven's Eroica Symphony that are lacking in performances by other conductors. But in 1967, it wasn't as though we had as many Mahler Sevenths to compare as we do today. I wonder, how many critics couldn't see the merits of this recording because their comparison was with the ONLY other one they had ever heard before?

Give it a careful listen. You'll hear and revel in the music like you never have done before. That's if you can FIND the recording, that is. Long out of print from EMI, this has become a cultist item of sorts, with asking prices for used copies and online auction prices in the hundreds of dollars. You MIGHT just have to settle for a secondhand LP copy!"