Carlos Kleiber rehearses the overtures to Webers Der Freischütz and Johann Strausss Die Fledermaus filmed in 1970
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: April 2003
CD No: TDK DV-DOCCK
Quite how often, if at all, Carlos Kleiber conducts today is very much down to him. Born in 1930, son of Erich Kleiber, Carlos is reclusive, to say the least. Our loss! And this film, although made over 30 years ago, makes his absence all the more rending. In these rehearsals, of two of his party pieces (from what is anyway a very select repertoire), Kleiber is seen as not only a master musician but someone who has an innate ability to transform the good into the great, the workmanlike into the inspired.
This is an engrossing film and proves that it’s the little things that make a difference. Throughout the rehearsals, Kleiber’s observations inspire a continual growth and alteration of the music. He suggests images to his players – each time the response is different; the music is developed, becomes more significant and more involving.
Never threatening or intimidating, Kleiber incites a crackling tension into the rehearsals; he challenges the players to go beyond the norm, to find more in the music. He’s on the orchestra’s side – this is not a vehicle for Kleiber; rather it his profound desire to widen parameters, to extend the musicians’ enjoyment and responsibility. He requires they listen to each other, to blend, react and support. It’s an engaging and illuminating experience for everyone, not least us observers
Kleiber works quickly, yet without haste; he’s tightening the screw. His own pleasure in feeling the orchestra is with him is palpable. The players’ initial response – uncertain, even incredulous – becomes convinced and immersed: the laughter at a passing remark of Kleiber’s is genuine, the smiles of appreciation at his abilities equally so. Kleiber’s colourful descriptions really characterise the music – something for the musicians to latch on to. There is nothing dry or academic about Kleiber’s rehearsals – technicalities and mechanics are of course discussed but always with the intent to colour the music. He also gets away with constantly interrupting the orchestra – each time he has a new observation: Gradus ad Parnassum.
His own quickness of response is electrifying – animated, eager, youthful; his research and learning always at the service of the music, as an indictor to the orchestra. Here is a man with a remarkably enquiring mind, always curious about something. Perhaps easily hurt and disappointed too – maybe this explains his reclusive nature.
Kleiber’s fantastic ear for detail, sound, balance and interaction has a similar fanaticism to Celibidache’s – different procedures, different results if a common seeking of the infinitesimal and the need to achieve at the very highest level. Fledermaus is compelling – Kleiber’s insights endless as he really opens up the music’s possibilities. Kleiber, never condescending, intimidating or showing irritation, wants the music to lift off the page, the players to be totally enthralled. The complete concert performances naturally reflect the preparation – but the transcendental moments actually happen in rehearsal.
This is a genius musician at work, one who expands horizons. While one can feel sadness that his appearances are so few and far between, it is wonderful to have this document of Kleiber’s singular artistry. As he says at one point to the Stuttgart orchestra – “I want you to want something … I want to enjoy what you’re doing.”