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Otto Klemperer (Conductor, Arranger)

Born: May 14, 1885 - Breslau, Germany
Died: July 6, 1973 - Zürich, Switzerland

The celebrated German conductor, Otto Klemperer, studied at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt and then went to Berlin to James Kwast (piano) and Hans Pfitzner (composition and orchestral conducting).

Otto Klemperer made his debut in 1906 with a presentation of Orphée aux enfers by Offenbach. A year later, he met Gustav Mahler, who arranged a post as choirmaster of the German Opera in Prague for him. After a brief time there, he was nominated director of music and made his debut with von Weber's Der Freischütz. In 1910, he was nominated director of music of the City Theatre in Hamburg, again at G. Mahler's instigation. From 1913 to 1914, he was conductor in Barmen; he was in Strasbourg from 1914 to 1917 at Hans Pfitzner's instigation. He then went to Cologne and became chief musical director there in 1923; in 1920, he conducted the première of Die tote Stadt von Korngold in Cologne. In 1924, he went to Wiesbaden in the same function, and in 1927 to the Kroll Opera in Berlin where he particularly supported contemporary music and found international acclaim with his many first performances. During his era in Wiesbaden, Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky (1928) and Neues vom Tage by Paul Hindemith (1929) were premiered; he conducted the Berlin premieres of Erwartung by Arnold Schoenberg, Cardillac by P. Hindemith and Z mrtveho domu by Janacek. After the closure of the Kroll Opera in 1931, Klemperer went to the State Opera before emigrating from Germany in 1933. Still in the same year, he took over conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (until 1939); from 1937 to 1938, he also conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He studied composition under A. Schoenberg. In 1939, he was operated on for a brain tumour and remained partially paralysed.

For years, Otto Klemperer hardly conducted at all, until he was nominated musical director of the Budapest Opera in 1947 (until 1950). He returned to the USA in 1951; he fractured the neck of his femur when he tripped and fell at Montreal Airport, worsening his physical disabilities. Despite this, he continued to work regularly, including with the London's Philharmonia Orchestra, which appointed him principal conductor for life in 1955. From 1961 on, he again began conducting operas. He was an annual guest at Covent Garden and did his own directing there of Fidelio by L.v. Beethoven (1961), The Magic Flute by Mozart (1962) and Lohengrin by Wagner (1963).

Otto Klemperer continued the tradition of the great 20th-century German conductors and was above all influenced by G. Mahler. His renditions are remarkable for their major dramatic strength. Apart from the opera premières already mentioned, he conducted Konzert fur Bratsche und Orchester by Paul Hindemith (1927), the Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene (1930) and the Suite für Streichorchester (1935) by A. Schoenberg for the concert hall. As a composer, we are indebted to him for an opera, six symphonies, a mass, chamber music and song compositions.

Publications: Meine Erinnerungen an Gustav Mahler und andere autobiographische Skizzen (Zürich, 1960).

More Photos

Source: Great Conductors Online Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001)

Otto Klemperer: Short Biography | Philharmonia Orchestra | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Individual Recordings of Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Brandeburg Concertos - O. Klemperer
Works | Recordings of Works for Orchestra

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Bach-Klemperer: Chorale Prelude Nun Komm' Der Heiden Heiland, BWV 599, arranged for orchestra

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland


Links to other Sites

Otto Klemperer (Official Website)
New Otto Klemperer Website
Otto Klemperer; Conductor Dead at 88 (New York Times)

Great Conductors Online - Otto Klemperer [N/A]
Otto Klemperer (Orchestrea Conductors) [N/A]
Otto Klempere Discography [Japanese]

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