Notes & Reviews:
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Otto Klemperer's death, EMI Classics pays tribute to the incomparable conductor with the release of an extensive edition of 11 luxurious yet affordably-priced boxets. Three new sets devoted to Mahler, Bach, Rameau, Handel, Gluck and Haydn and 20th Century Music are coming out this May. Otto Klemperer had a remarkable career as a young man but it was at the age of 70 that he started a series of recordings that became and remain touchstones.
At the age of 42, Klemperer became of the Kroll Opera in Berlin and was responsible for numerous premieres of the music by modern composers especially Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindermith and Kurt Weill. It was a source of price that he brought so many works by Stravinsky to the public and this continued even when Stravinsky and Klemperer were in America where the Symphony in Three Movements was written. Klemperer was so captivated by the Berthold Brecht-Kurt Will Die Dreigroschenoper when it opened in Berlin in 1928 that he commissioned the 28-year-old composer to make a suite for wind instruments based on the original score. The result was the Kleine Dreigroschenmusik, which was played for the first time at the annual Berlin opera ball under Klemperer's direction.
Not only a conductor, Klemperer loved to compose and three works were recorded. The first, in October 1961, was Merry Waltz taken from his opera Das Ziel and re-orchestrated for a larger orchestra which had originally premiered in August in 1936 in Los Angeles. The second is his Symphony No. 2 which had a private recording earlier in 1969 but which EMI then decided deserved proper session time and was released to celebrate his 85th birthday. His String Quartet No. 7 was recorded in 1970, with the Philharmonia String Quartet for the same reason.
The 4-CD box set includes a musical bonus in the Overture and Dream Pantomine from Hansel and Gretel composed by Engelbert Humperdinck. He had often conducted the opera and his wife, the soprano Johanna Geissler, had alternated the roles of Gretel and the Witch. The set concludes with Jon Tolansky's Sound Biography which illustrates how Otto Klemperer inspired musicians and music lovers not only with his conducting but also with his extraordinary courage, surviving extreme physical and mental adversity with remarkable stoicism. This special disc also includes two never before released items that were discovered as this feature was being prepared: a speech by Dr Klemperer at a reception for his 75th birthday, and a rehearsal during his recording sessions for Mozart's Don Giovanni. An entire hour of rehearsal can be heard on a bonus CD that appears with EMI Classics' reissue of the complete opera.
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