Friday, August 12, 2011

Mahler? - I advise you not to do it

'Firstly the [New York Philharmonic Orchestra] was really not so good; Boston was much better. And I was only too eager to do something big, like a Mahler symphony. Judson said, "That's not possible. There won't even be a hundred people in the auditorium." And in a sense he was right; at that time Mahler was quite down. Finally he agreed to Das Lied von der Erde, if we could find a couple of singers who would bring in the public. It turned out they couldn't be found, so I said I wanted to do Mahler's Second Symphony. He said, "Mr Klemperer, I advise you not to do it. It will result in a big deficit." I insisted and it was an enormous success, also with the critics. But the next day I got a letter from Judson, saying that, as he warned me, there was a deficit of five thousand dollars on the concert.'
Otto Klemperer talks about performing Mahler in 1936 in Peter Heyworth's book Conversations with Klemperer. With Mahler's Second Symphony currently trending I turned to Klemperer's 1962 recording of that towering work. My LP set is seen above and the CD transfer is available in EMI's great recordings of the century series, and so it should be. Under Klemperer's baton in the Kingsway Hall were the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, the latter trained by Wilhelm Pitz, soloists Elisabeth Schwarzkpf and Hilde Rössel-Majdan, with Walter Legge, Suvi Raj Grubb and Bob Gooch in the control room. Robin Golding says it all in the sleeve note when he writes about the "granite-like strength (no Bruno Walter-like sentiment in the central movements) and absolute authority" of Klemperer's interpretation. All this comes in sound that is of demonstration quality even by 2011 standards.

This definitive interpretation should be in every CD collection and is currently available for around £4.99. That bargain price provides food for thought; in fact this recording of the century costs significantly less than either the Goats' Cheese Salad in the Royal Albert Hall Café Consort or the stuffed piquillo peppers with Capriola Farm goat cheese tapas at Bazaar in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. So hurry before they change the menu.

And talking of Beverly Hill dining, which music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was acclaimed for his interpretation of Mahler's Second Symphony, but with a different orchestra? Well, actually there are two. One is, of course, Bazaar aficionado Gustavo Dudamel. It may surprise some to learn that the other is Otto Klemperer who directed the LA Phil from 1933 to 1939. There is not too much about Klemperer on the Orchestra's website, which may be explained by this exchange in Conversations with Klemperer:
Heyworth: Did you find the programmes in America very dependent on box office receipts?
Klemperer: Yes. On one occasion in Los Angeles I was asked to end Tchaikovsky's Symphonie pathétique with the third movement, the electrifying march. The manager wanted me to leave out the marvellous last movement. Naturally. I didn't do so.
At least the BBC Proms has got that one sussed. In the Albert Hall the audience can applaud to their heart's content at the end of the electrifying march and hear the marvellous last movement. There is no Pathétique at this year's Proms. But Sir Colin Davis performance of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony on Aug 24 with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester should be electrifying. There is also the Fifth Symphony with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on September 5 conducted by Manfred Honeck, who is joined by fellow IMG Artist Hélène Grimaud for a performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto. Which cues my end link to one of those LA Phil music directors talking about the hot topic of classical music's mutual admiration societies.

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Reinhold Behringer said...

Following your recommendation, I just ordered the 1962 CD with Klemperer's recording of Mahler's Symphony No.2. Thank you pointing to this!

Pliable said...

Reinhold, thanks for that. Your support is much appreciated, it may mean EMI will have the funds to keep paying my pension -