Medici Masters – Erich Kleiber

0 of 5 stars

Euryanthe – Overture
Symphony No.33 in B flat, K319
Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 (Pathétique)

Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester [Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra]
Erich Kleiber

Recorded in the Funkhaus, Saal 1, WDR Cologne – on 20 January 1956 (Weber), 23 November 1953 (Mozart) & 28 March 1955

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2007
Duration: 76 minutes



a plenty: the end result is a perfectly paced, generously ‘sung’ account that is deep-rooted in humanity. The slow movement is especially affecting and contrasts markedly with a bracing Minuet in which the ‘turn’ into the trio is perfectly achieved.

Kleiber’s way with the ‘Pathétique’ is very persuasive and often remarkable in its mix of poise and volubility – Kleiber knows when emotion can rear its head and when the music needs to be painstakingly realised. Kleiber’s view of the first movement is quite spacious (nearly 20 minutes), noticeably so in the slower music (although it is anything but ‘fixed’), and false sentimentality is avoided. Come the ‘thunderous’ development, Kleiber doesn’t press ahead but utilises power and ‘slower tempo’ adjustments (one of them quite striking) to chart anticipation and tension-release. The second movement ‘Waltz’ moves ahead, to advantage (a flowing intermezzo after the drama of the first movement), pizzicatos remarkably precise and like so many dagger thrusts, and not without regret as dark clouds loom. The ensuing ‘March’ is well paced; Kleiber doesn’t see it as a reckless showpiece and the build up to the final ‘blaze’ is built with remorseless tread and, then, at the music’s most searing state, a thrilling drop-back in tempo that really emphasises the impact of the march steps. The final Adagio lamentoso avoids being a dirge; no self-pity here, more a wrestling with conscience and consciousness that will, of course, fade to nothingness.

The sound is excellent in both body and clarity, really very fine, but pitch can occasionally be a little queasy (especially in the Mozart). And while the reproduction is generally vivid and clean, some string frequencies discolour a little, which is a shame, and would have been avoided if a little more ‘background’ had been allowed; 1’43’-1’49” in the first movement of the ‘Pathétique’ is an example; here fidelity is left behind for something electronically corrupted.

But such ‘incidents’ are few and far between and there is much more to praise than not – and, anyway, these are marvellous performances full of conviction, imagination and personality. Yet Kleiber is never bigger than the music – rather he illuminates it with many individual responses.

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