A few months ago it seems as though the classical music thread disappeared. Anyway, does anyone want to revive it? Most of my listening is classical (or opera), and it would be great to have a place to geek out over the best recordings of Bruckner, Beethoven, Mahler or Wagner again!
I’ll start with a quick anecdote from last evening. Jessye Norman. Strauss’ Vier Letze Lieder. Number 3 - Beim Schlafengehen. Around the 3-minute mark. Always sublime. But I have been messing around with speaker placement and listening position, an inch at a time. I sat down, and she came in with that soaring “Und die Seele unbewacht” after the orchestral interlude. I don’t think I breathed for about 30 seconds. Tears. Holy cow. When a hifi system is dialed in and meets a recording like that . . . . It sounded like she was in the room. I am getting goosebumps writing this.
Anyway. Cheers to all who know and love this recording. And to all who want to tell me how something Kleiber conducted somewhere is better!
I was the person who started the classical music thread in 2019 and since then it’s lived a steady life but sometimes falls a little quieter in the northern hemisphere holiday season (when, of course, new releases often also take a holiday ). I would be sad to see it die so please, by all means, contribute there.
What a very odd reference to the genius who was Carlos Kleiber!
I had the great privilege to see him conduct his only ever orchestral concert in London, when he stood in for the indisposed ageing Nazi Karl Boehm to conduct the LSO. For reasons that I didn’t understand then (and still don’t now), the press reviews were hostile and Kleiber instructed Radio3 to wipe their tapes of the concert, and vowed never to conduct in London again. Sadly, the tapes were wiped and Kleiber never came back.
I still treasure the concert programme, though.
Incidentally, the only Richard Strauss works that Kleiber conducted in later life were Rosenkavalier (his favourite piece) and Heldenleben. He made a recording of the latter with the wonderful Vienna PO, but withdrew his consent for its release after initial copies were sent to retailers but before they went on sale. (I went to the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street to try to get a copy, but none were on the shelves.)
It was just a little joke! I just recalled that most threads led to Kleiber at some point. I am definitely a fan of his conducting and of course am sad that he left such a limited legacy on film and disc. His Boheme and Rosenkavalier videos are sublime!
Carlos Kleiber must be, objectively, one of the greatest conductors ever (the very best, in my opinion). But, sadly, he was crippled by self doubt. He went into the profession against the wishes of his father, the almost-as-gifted Erich Kleiber (who conducted the best recording ever of Mozart’s ‘Figaro’ for Decca) using the pseudonym Carl Keller, starting in provincial opera houses in Germany. Decca spotted his talents early, but he refused to sign for them (just imagine if he had recorded Wagner’s ‘Ring’ instead of Georg Solti!).
So the release of Weber’s ‘Freischuetz’ on DG in 1973 was a huge coup for the yellow label, followed two years later by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, arguably the greatest recording of any music ever.
He famously charged huge fees for his conducting appearances, once demanding a fully specc’ed Audi as a fee. And yet, he could bring orchestras to produce greater performances than they themselves thought possible,
If any of you think that this is hyperbole, just go out and buy the DG Originals CD which couples his never to be bettered recordings of Beethoven’s mighty Fifth and Seventh Symphonies. You won’t ever hear their like. (Purists can still obtain the individual releases on two single LPs for their LP12s.)
Yes, I have the Beethoven/VPO/Kleiber performances on vinyl, CD and hi-res download! I will agree that his 5th is the best I have ever heard. Personally I like the 7th a little bouncier, a little more relaxed, a little more dance-like, but by no means do I object to his reading of it, and the VPO never sounded better.
Everyone would have wanted to hear him conduct a Ring cycle, but if he had done so it never would have been finished under the conditions that Solti had to navigate, and then he would have objected to its release!!
There is a fine line between genius and practical uselessness. He was perhaps the greatest conductor ever, but his perfectionism and self-doubt sometimes brought him very close to that line, it seems.
I won’t argue with any of that. And, even at the time of its release, Kleiber’s Beethoven Seventh divided critical opinion.
But to have heard him, in the flesh, even just once was an extraordinary experience. In a different (better) world, the critics would have loved the concert, and Carlos would have been welcomed back to the UK to conduct orchestral music many times.
At the time of their respective releases, Kleiber’s Fifth (1975) was hugely admired by the critics , but the Seventh (1977) was less well received.
Some thought that the Seventh was too hard driven (particularly the second movement), and it was generally thought that the recording quality of the Seventh was not rich enough (‘not an ounce of fat on the sound’ was one comment which I remember well).
If only we had known at the time that there would be no more Beethoven from Kleiber, we might have seen things differently.