Otto Klemperer is one of a handful of conductors particularly active in the 1950s whose names and works will likely be with us for many decades to come. Like many of his contemporaries, such as Walter, Ormandy, and Reiner, Klemperer's approach to the orchestra and interpretation of the standard repertoire is unique and unmistakable. This CD of Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler, does a splendid job of capturing the quintessential Klemperer although many tempos heard here vary sharply with other recordings of the same works. The Brahms "First Symphony" is uncharacteristically brisk for Klemperer, but the gravity and intensity associated with his name remain in spades. The finale in particular is very driven but maintains every bit of the grandeur that would be expected. The Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester proves to be a somewhat blunter instrument than Klemperer's subsequent engagements with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and balance is sometimes at issue. Nevertheless, the musical integrity and intensity that Klemperer offers are clear. The album concludes with a brilliant performance of Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder." Both baritone George London and Klemperer imbue the tragic composition with immense tension and apotheosis. Fans of superb historical recordings, and of Klemperer in particular, should absolutely add this CD to their collections.
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester K ln, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln