Saturday, 24 August 2013

Klemperer in Wagner

It was moving this evening listening to the 85 year old Otto Klemperer conducting the Philharmonia and Norman Bailey in Wotan's Farewell (to his daugher) from Act III of Die Walküre. It was almost the last music Klemperer recorded, and “Leb wohl, du kühness, herrliches Kind” has never sounded so sorrowful. It is slow (Klemperer, 1970) but in other words: it is authoritative, magisterial. Georg Solti, in the same passage, sounds almost as if he were in a hurry to get rid of his favourite daughter. Not Otto.

Wagner's music is music to bask in, and I am infinitely happy that amongst all the things I did as a teenager, absorbtion in Wagner's world of themes and motifs was one of the better activities. Composers come and composers go. And conductors come and conductors go. Among my preferred conductors of the German classics (Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Richard Strauss) are: Furtwängler, Knapperstbusch, Klemperer, Böhm, and a few others. In some ways, the art of classical conducting from the first decades of the 20th century died with them. Fortunately, there are recordings -- as in the case of Klemperer going on into the very early 1970s. Klemperer in Wagner is really something to hear. They don't play it like that, now.

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