Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Speaking of Otto Klemperer ...

Last weekend during Music Appreciation Mornings with my son, I decided to treat him to the Klemperer recording of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements and Pulcinella Suite, as seen on the left.

Columbia (UK) SAX 2588
Otto Klemperer
Philharmonia Orchestra
Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, 1962 and 1963

This isn't my copy on the left, but I do own a red label original of the album.  I don't believe that a Blue and Silver label of this album was ever produced.

It was luck of the draw that I happened to stumble across this album at a Midwest record collector's show in the suburbs of Chicago.  Hardly any of the dealers there (back in 2003 or 2004) sold any classical music, but a few threw some classical boxes in with their jazz for sale.  I rummaged through the boxes of one dealer whom I had met before, a quiet older fellow who generally knew what he possessed and charged top dollar prices for his items.  Somehow, I landed on this album, picked it out (the disc was in near mint condition), and asked him how much he wanted for it.  My heart beat nervously.  I had a feeling that this was quite rare and wasn't sure if he was well versed in British Columbia/EMI classical recordings.  Five dollars, he told me.  A sigh of relief.  I handed over the money and quickly walked away.  As it turned out, I found a copy on sale on a British classical LP web site for over 150 British pounds. 

It's really a wonderful album.  Now I don't think Klemperer was well known to be a great Stravinsky interpreter, but somehow this recording is still very enjoyable.  I particularly like the Pulcinella Suite.  The LP has been reissued on CD, but sadly, it doesn't come with the fantastic Picasso cover.


  1. You are correct about SAX 2588 being a first press red/black. The last of the SAX's produced with a blue/silver label was SAX 2538!

    Great find. I think some of Klemperer's works are ponderous (his Brahms symphonies, for example). Who do you think he is most sympathetic to?

  2. Thanks for your comments! As you mentioned, I find Klemperer's tempos tend to be somewhat slower and his interpretations to be "heavier" than others. My understanding is that this was more the case in his later years (for instance, after his accident when he burned himself in bed with a cigarette) than in his formative years. His Mozart surprisingly was not as heavy as I would've expected, but when I compare it to Szell or Harnoncourt, it's a lot more "big band" and weightier. Not exactly the ideal Mozart, but still audibly enjoyable. His Brahms have been considered benchmarks, too, though I prefer more contemporary performances of these. I'm currently going through the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recordings with James Levine at the helm. These have been remastered onto CD from analogue tapes and don't have the same clarity as digital, but the performances are exciting. I can say that my initial listening to Andrew Manze's recent release of the Brahms cycle was favorable. Clarity is definitely there, and the sound quality is great. What do you think of Klemperer's Mendelssohn recordings on EMI/Columbia?

  3. I do believe he is known for his Mahler 4. Maybe some Beethoven.

  4. The London Stereo Treasury STS 15218 Pulcinella, Ansermet (cut-out) is a nice record!

    1. I haven't heard that one. Sounds good, eh? Which Decca SXL is that?

    2. It's later with copywrite date of 1966.... DECCA SXL 6230 ..... The suite is on Decca SXL 2188. I have STS 15011 of this, but have not paid attention to it. I like the full version in the later STS or SDD pressing.

    3. London Stereo Treasury STS 15218 Pulcinella, Ansermet (cut-out); Well I am listening to this record and it devastating, captivating, and absolutely beautiful. If they'd issued this on blue back it might have been the best one. Don't settle for the suite when you can have the whole piece. This cutout was probably cut with the second generation lithium cooled cutter heads that could do 20,000hz without distortion.

    4. For DECCA SXL 6230 you are looking at $100! That pressing would be interesting, but I doubt it matches the later STS. It is not on the bay, but here is one for $12:

      A pic of the funky cover:

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