Klemperer: Beethoven Symphony No. 4 - La Voz de su Amo ASDL 770
Jacket EX / LP EX
This beautiful and quite rare LP from Spanish HMV / La Voz de su Amo (ASDL 770, Spanish pressing, cream/gold label – ED1, stereo) features Otto Klemperer’s magnificent rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major Op. 60, recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra on glorious form in the fabled acoustics of London’s Kingsway Hall on 21 October 1957.
Filling out the disc is Klemperer and the Philharmonia’s unsurpassed account of Beethoven’s Die Weihe des Hauses Op. 124 (Consecration of the House), set down in EMI’s Studio No. 1, Abbey Road, London, on 28 October 1959. No other performance, either before or since, so fully revealed the true stature of this under-rated work. This is conducting and orchestral playing on the highest possible plane – one of the great Klemperer “revelations” on disc.
Wrote the critic T.H. in his review for the February 1961 issue of The Gramophone: “The sound Columbia produced for the mono version of this record was very good, but it is not enough merely to say now that the stereo is excellent too. In between, Bruno Walter's stereo record of this symphony has appeared and something must be added about the relative merits of the two performances.
“Reviewing the Walter, D.C. said that ‘in most Beethoven performances, the inevitable limitations of the great conductors . . . nearly always result in an interpretation which stresses one particular side of the work at the expense of the others. Hardly ever can one interpreter encompass all the many contrasted elements in one Beethoven symphony’. That is very true; and yet here, he went on to say, Walter does present the work in all its aspects. High praise indeed—and deserved, for Walter's is a wonderful performance. This symphony is "his" in a way that perhaps none of the other Beethovens is.
“All the same, I was surprised, when I came to compare the two records, to find how near Klemperer and Walter often are. For instance, I expected Klemperer to take a slower tempo for the introduction—but he doesn't. It is too easy to assume that Klemperer will be magisterial in everything he does and so to be deceived. I find nothing out of scale in Klemperer's performance and everything to enjoy.
“But where Walter does show a slightly greater sympathy, where he really does, as D.C. said, show that he can encompass all the many contrasted elements of this Beethoven symphony, is in his playing of the slow movement. I played Klemperer first arid thought the opening melody, for instance, certainly not lacking in any tenderness; but when I followed that with Walter I found just that extra beauty that made me decide that I loved his performance more.
“There are a couple of points, however, that may decide the matter otherwise. Walter gives us no repeats, neither in the first movement nor in the finale, and both of these cry out to be observed, which Klemperer of course does. Yet if you don't care about that, Walter becomes the better bargain, for the symphony is complete on one side, with the Fifth on the reverse (again, without its almost essential first movement repeat). Klemperer, on the other hand, with less space to spare, does the overture Weihe des Hauses, and that is such a superb performance, Klemperer at his very greatest, that I, for one, could hardly bear to be without it. Which brings me back to where I began. The stereo sound is good (and particularly a gain for the fugal writing of the overture) and if you try Klemperer's performance of the symphony and like it, you are not likely to regret buying this fine record.”
This early 1960s Spanish HMV pressings are every bit as fine as their counterparts in England or Continental Europe. It is a curiosity, however, that some titles that appeared in the UK on Columbia, such as Klemperer Beethoven 4th Symphony (issued on Columbia SAX 2354 in the coveted blue/silver pressing) was in Spain released under the HMV logo, in the equally desirable cream/gold label. Owing to the exigencies of life under Franco, the Spanish HMV catalog was considerably smaller, many titles being issued in only 500-copy runs, and making such LPs exceedingly rare today – a piece of gramophone history.