Klemperer: Bruckner - Symphony no.6, Gluck, Humperdinck - Overtures (FLAC)
Klemperer: Bruckner - Symphony no.6, Gluck, Humperdinck - Overtures (FLAC)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks+cue)
Label: EMI Classics
Size: 400 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

# Iphigénie en Aulide, opera in 3 acts, Wq. 40 Overture
Composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck
Performed by London Philharmonia Orchestra
Conducted by Otto Klemperer

# Hänsel und Gretel, opera Overture
Composed by Engelbert Humperdinck
Performed by London Philharmonia Orchestra
Conducted by Otto Klemperer

# Symphony No. 6 in A major (“Philosophic”), WAB 106 (various versions)
Composed by Anton Bruckner
Performed by New Philharmonia Orchestra
Conducted by Otto Klemperer

Vintage Klemperer as Grand Old Man

I have a silly habit of thinking of Klemperer as the musical equivalent of Gladstone, the “Grand Old Man” of conductors: granitic, stately and a moral imperative. If you were to make a list of conductors whose personal attributes and musical sensibilities would seem to lend themselves most aptly to performing Bruckner’s music, surely Klemperer would head the list. This was his first recording, in 1964, with the Philharmonia Orchestra reincarnated as the “New” P.O.; he was already 79 and the way he launches into the opening movement is truly the “maestoso” of an interpreter who knows what he wants the music to do. Any awkward turns or transitions in the music are the fault of the composer himself in this most uncompromising of his symphonies. I could ask for a little more delicacy in the woodwind passages but the splendour of the brass in the reinstatement of that big first subject is thrilling and contrasts wonderfully with the noble tread of the Adagio with its yearning, falling figure. I left a concert featuring this symphony in London last year thinking that Bruckner really wasn’t among my favourite symphonists; listening to Klemperer here, I am now reminded that the fault lay in the interpretation, not the music. Klemperer provides unity and vision where lesser conductors let things go slack. Up to a point, Bruckner’s intentions are so clear that and the mood he intends to establish so patent that to some degree his music plays itself as long as the conductor maintains an overview and doesn’t get bogged down in fussy point-making (c.f. Barenboim?); Klemperer never does the latter.

The fillers are also vintage Klemperer in the same hopelessly outdated mode: the Gluck overture is objectively far too slow, especially in the light of modern performance practice, but I love its assured dignity and the way Klemperer savours the cascading intervals of its main theme. He makes the slow introduction to the faster string arpeggio section sound almost elephantine and brings a special mystery to the repeated lamenting semitone figure on the oboe; it’s special. Similarly the Humperdinck overture is glorious – and also slow, but sumptuous.

This disc is a great memento of a wonderful conductor in his autumnal years, does homage to the music programmed here and is a worthy addition to the EMI GROC series.


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