Classical Reissue Reviews
Klemperer = MOZART: Masonic Funeral Music; SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”; BERLIOZ: Love Scene from Romeo and Juliet Symphony; BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 – New Philharmonia Orch./ Otto Klemperer – Testament (2 CDs)
Published on August 29, 2013
Klemperer = MOZART: Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477; SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 Unfinished”; BERLIOZ: Love Scene from Romeo and Juliet Symphony, Op. 17; BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21 – New Philharmonia Orch./ Otto Klemperer – Testament SBT2 1478 (2 CDs at reduced price), 30:44, 47:41 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The magnificent concert mounted (11 February 1968) by Otto Klemperer and the New Philharmonia Orchestra in honor of British publisher and arts humanitarian Sir Victor Gollancz (1893-1967) at Royal Festival Hall, London included music dear to the influential publishing magnate’s heart. The level of response from the New Philharmonia Orchestra astonishes, especially in the sheer organ magnitude of the woodwinds in Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.
Typically, Klemperer elicits the heavy tread, the slow pace, and the grand line from the outset, invoking the potent valediction of the evening with Mozart’s intensely solemn Masonic Funeral Music, with its homage to Gluck. The real rarity of the program lies in Klemperer’s having set the Love Scene from the Berlioz Romeo and Juliet Symphony as a spacious operatic scene complete in itself, rife with adumbrations of Wagner’s Tristan. If Klemperer perpetually aspires to the colossal, the effect only gains significance in the music of the arch-Romantic Berlioz, whose own conception of love-death proves as fluently erotic as the drawn-out machinations of the German operatic master.
The concert concludes (as recorded) with the Beethoven C Major Symphony, since the Leonore Overture No. 3 has not survived. Unapologetic in its means, which certainly eschew anything like a reduced force for “authenticity’s sake,” the Beethoven rather plummets forward, the first movement repeat’s only adding to a girth and irreverent swagger the music projects in the face of Haydn and orthodox Classicism. Gollancz himself heralded Klemperer as the Beethoven conductor par excellence, whose only serious rival had been Felix Weingartner. As had Klemperer, Gollancz earned a supreme testimonial from Observer critic Peter Heyworth, who extolled Gollancz as “a man who in sixty years of concert-going, showed the deepest devotion to the cause of music.” This recorded concert more than repays the Klemperer devotee with an unbroken line of spiritual intensity in titanic gestures, fully appreciated by a most receptive audience.