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He stands head and shoulders above the ranks of great twentieth-century conductors, and not simply because of his impressive stature: Otto Klemperer, who was given the nickname of "Kl'Empereur", comparing him with Napoleon Bonaparte. That says a great deal about his attitude to music, an attitude he shares with another famous personality: Gustav Mahler, who did not tolerate the routine or negligence in the arts, changing from an affable man into a tyrant as soon as he picked up a baton. "His approach to music is strictly relentless, both in opera and on the concert stage. For him, music is something absolute - intensive, spiritualized and very personal," is how the conductor William Steinberg described his great colleague Otto Klemperer. Klemperer was the epitome of a conductor dedicated to a serious approach rooted in the nineteenth-century German-Austrian tradition. The works of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler were at the heart of his artistic interest. He left many recordings, not least of works by these composers, which can undoubtedly be regarded as recordings of the century.

These recordings were all made in the mid-1950s in Cologne, where the great German conductor Otto Klemperer's work for the local radio station was a key element in his career. His work with the orchestras of the Cologne radio station produced benchmark performances of Classical and Romantic works, some of which are featured here on recordings of public concerts. Here is Klemperer in his element, for as he said himself, he needed the concert atmosphere "to be in top form". This 4CD set includes outstanding recordings of Mahler's Fourth Symphony and Kindertotenlieder, Brahms' Requiem, and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony. Personnel: Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer (conductor)

Johannes Brahms: A German Requiem

Elisabeth Grummer, Hermann Prey, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 4

Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra


George London, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

Sieglinde Wagner, Annalise Kupper, Rudolf Schock

Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Fritz Wunderlich, Wilma Lipp, Ursula Boese, Franz Krass

Philharmonia Orchestra

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