The German-born conductor Otto Klemperer, a towering figure in the musical history of the 20th century, died at the age of 88 on July 8th 1973, so 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of his death. His complete recordings on Warner Classics catalogue are being made available for the first time in
The German-born conductor Otto Klemperer, a towering figure in the musical history of the 20th century, died at the age of 88 on July 8th 1973, so 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of his death. His complete recordings on Warner Classics catalogue are being made available for the first time in 2 huge separate boxes; the first volume with the Symphonic Works, Concertos & Lieder (95CD) will be released in June 2023. All recordings are remastered in HD 192/24 from original sources.
By the mid-1960s, the 80-year-old Otto Klemperer had recorded the nine symphonies, the Violin Concerto, Fidelio and the Missa solemnis, but not the piano concertos, which he had performed with such legendary figures as Schnabel, Claudio Arrau, Edwin Fischer, Wilhelm Backhaus and, in Moscow in 1936, the young Emil Gilels. In 1967, he recorded Mozart’s Concerto K503 with the 24-year-old Daniel Barenboim, the prodigiously talented pianist and conductor, whose recordings of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas were already taking the world by the ears. There was an immediate rapport between the two musicians, out of which came a Beethoven concerto cycle like no other the gramophone had yet given us.
Barenboim has said of Klemperer: ‘He approached the essence of what he wanted directly and without hesitation. He was not interested in sound as such but in correctness of execution of tempo, dynamics, and orchestral balances, over which he took immense care.’ He was, says Barenboim, an uncompromising musician and human being. No orchestra ever doubted the inner strength that emanated from him.
At the time the recordings of the piano concertos were made, Backhaus was still alive, as was Arrau, but neither could have challenged, provoked, and delighted the Grand Old Man – or offset his vivid but essentially monumental approach to the concertos – quite as Barenboim did. It was an inspired pairing in which distinct styles of music-making confront one another, yet are movingly and joyously linked in what appears to be (and to some extent was) an improvised act of live music-making.