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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by Otto Klemperer

V-5

Bach: St. Matthew Passion

 
 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Otto Klemperer

Philharmonia Orchestra & Choir / Boys of the Hampstead Parish Church Choir

Tenor [Evangelist]: Peter Pears, Baritone [Jesus]: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Soprano [Arias]: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Contralto [Arias]: Christa Ludwig; Tenor [Arias]: Nicolai Gedda; Bass [Arias]: Walter Berry; Baritone [Judas]: John Carol Case; Bass [Arias, Petrus]: Walter Berry; Baritone [High Priest, 1st Priest, Pilate]: Otakar Kraus; Soprano [1st Maid, Pilate’s Wife]: Heather Harper; Alto [2nd Maid, 1st Witness]: Helen Watts; Bass [2nd Priest]: Geraint Evans; Tenor [2nd Witness]: Wilfred Brown
Harpsichord: George Malcolm

EMI

Jan 1,4,5,11,12, 1961

3-CD / TT: 223:29

Recorded at Studio No. 1, Abbey Road and Kingsway Hall, London, England.
See: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Otto Klemperer
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SMP by Otto Klemperer

Ryan Michero wrote (January 5, 2000):
The same could be said for Klemperer's Matthew Passion. The feeling and musicianship are in place, but the lack of scholarship and feeling for the baroque idiom make his performance almost laughable. My mouth dropped open when I first heard his recitatives. I certainly respect those that think Klemperer and Gould made great music, but I doubt even they can claim it has much to do with Bach.

I don't mean to say there is ONE way Bach should sound, but performers are simply lost if they disregard what we DO know about the way music sounded in Bach's time.

Wim Huisjes wrote (January 5, 2000):
[To Ryan Micher] Seems to me that your conclusion should be that at this date there IS only one way Bach should sound today: based on the (at least partly) alleged knowledge there is NOW.

Klemperer's performance (1962) still stands out as one of the finest ever recorded. Lack of scholarship? I don't think so. No feeling for baroque idiom? For his generation: I don't think so.

Ever heard Mengelberg's performance (1939, Philips, with a lot of cuts: practice of the time)? Read something or at least think about what Mendelssohn did when he resurrected Bach's SMP! Also laughable?

Taking your arguments, fifty years from now Leonhardt, Suzuki, Koopman, Herreweghe etc. will be laughable? Are they the only ones that are "sacred"?

The very vaguely defined concept of HIP, PIP, authentic or whatever you want to call it brought great merits, but let's also appreciate the great contributions from the past. If you don't like them: fine with me. Discarding them? That's laughable.

Ryan Michero wrote (January 5, 2000):
[To Wim Huisjes] Sorry it took so long to respond to this, Wim. I've been on vacation.

Ryan Michero wrote:
<< The same could be said for Klemperer's Matthew Passion. The feeling and musicianship are in place, but the lack of scholarship and feeling for the baroque idiom make his performance almost laughable. My mouth dropped open when I first heard his recitatives. I certainly respect those that think Klemperer and Gould made great music, but I doubt even they can claim it has much to do with Bach.
I don't mean to say there is ONE way Bach should sound, but performers are simply lost if they disregard what we DO know about the way music sounded in Bach's time. >>
Wim Huisjes wrote:
< Seems to me that your conclusion should be that at this date there IS only one way Bach should sound today: based on the (at least partly) alleged knowledge there is NOW. >
Forgive me for not really clarifying what my point actually was. I didn't mean to include Klemperer's Matthew Passion in the "Hall of Shame" category, I just wanted to illustrate my point abhow stylistic problems can hinder the enjoyment of a performance. There are things that are great about Klemperer's recording, including an overpowering religious intensity that I haven't heard on any other recording. However, I can hardly listen to it because it's so incredibly huge and slow. My ears used to Gardiner's infinitely tauter version, revolt. If anyone else can overlook the stylistic anachronisms and enjoy the performance on its own terms, great. It's very hard for me to do so.

< Klemperer's performance (1962) still stands out as one of the finest ever recorded. Lack of scholarship? I don't think so. No feeling for baroque idiom? For his generation: I don't think so. >
I can enjoy Karl Richter's first version, which was actually recorded before Klemperer's. I realize he is of a newer generation of Bach interpreters, but Klemperer's version sure seems old-fashioned next to it.

< Ever heard Mengelberg's performance (1939, Philips, with a lot of cuts: practice of the time)? Read something or at least think about what Mendelssohn did when he resurrected Bach's SMP! Also laughable? >
My use of the word "laughable" was careless, and it sounded like I was dismissing Klemperer's recording, which I wasn't. I was trying to express my first impression upon hearing some of it. It was so slow and strange-sounding to my ears that I was compelled to laugh nervously in disbelief.

The achievements of Klemperer, Mengelberg, and Mendelssohn are certainly not to be dismissed. On the other hand, I do think they distorted Bach's music almost beyond recognition. Yes, every performance is some sort of distortion of the original, viewed through veils of history and ideology. But I think we have come a long way.

< Taking your arguments, fifty years from now Leonhardt, Suzuki, Koopman, Herreweghe etc. will be laughable? Are they the only ones that are "sacred"? >
Certainly not. They do have the benefit of working in the wake of a revolution in "early music" performance practice, though. They are also specialists in Baroque style, which Klemperer was not.

Klemperer would certainly be included on any short list of great conductors. But the performing tradition he comes from is very different from the Baroque performing tradition. This tradition tended to see the Matthew Passion as Bach's "Symphony of a Thousand", to take tempi extremely slowly and make up for the extra length by chopping the work to bits, and to generally play Bach as if he were a Romantic born too early. I think this constitutes a fundamental misunderstanding of Bach's place in musical history. Yes, nearly everyone of the time was guilty it, but now that we know better it sure is hard for me to listen to Bach performances from that tradition.

< The very vaguely defined concept of HIP, PIP, authentic or whatever you want to call it brought great merits, but let's also appreciate the great contributions from the past. If you don't like them: fine with me. Discarding them? That's laughable. >
I don't discard them. It's hard for me to really enjoy them, though.

 

Suzuki's SMP (and Klemperer's)

Peter Bright wrote (March 15, 2000):
I am going to stick my neck out and admit that I still find Klemperer's St Matthew Passion pretty awesome. Bach "purists" (horrible term, but I guess that's what a lot of us on this list are) I'm sure are quite right in pointing out how inauthentic the performance is (in instrumentation, size of ensemble, and, perhaps most of all, tempo), but I still come back to this performance time and time again. The quality of individual performances, particularly those of Dietrich Fischer-Deskau and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf are magnificent. Surely, the performances of "Mache dich, mein herze, rein" and "Ebarme dich, mein Gott" represent two of the most moving moments in recorded music. Comparing the former with the version in Suzuki's SMP, I can see no contest whatsoever. (By the way, I do love the Suzuki SMP very much).

Perhaps the Klemperer SMP says more about Klemperer and his time than it does about Bach. Even if this is the case, I have yet to come across a performance that is as almost unbearably moving as this one. Maybe I should get my hands on Richter's late 1950's effort...

Donald Satz wrote (March 15, 2000):
Peter Bright wrote:
< I am going to stick my neck out and admit that I still find Klemperer's St Matthew Passion pretty awesome. Bach "purists" (horrible term, but I guess that's what a lot us us on this list are) I'm sure are quite right in pointing out how inauthentic the performance is (in instrumentation, size of ensemble, and, perhaps most of all, tempo), but I still come back to this performance time and time again. >
So-called Bach "purists" are a pain in the neck when they start going off on their little tangents. To me, it's all about musical enjoyment. It does happen that my musical preferences are for period instrument performances of Baroque chamber, orchestral, and vocal music, but that has little to do with historical accuracy. Peter loves Klemperer's SMP, and I think it's great that he has recorded performances that fully satisfy him, regardless of their type.

 

Good Cory (Pax Musicus)

Robert Murphy wrote (October 23, 2000):
Zachary Uram wrote:
< I feel very strongly about Bach and his music and was deeply hurt if one was disparaging it in such a way as referring to there be many pieces of juvenille second-rate music. I apologize to you for any illspoken words on my behalf. Bach's scraps are our masterpieces! Whoever said "many" deserves a public flogging and should hold 20 copies of the Klemperor SMP while standing on one foot and listening to 1000 hrs. of Garrison Keillor nonstop ;) I would like to hear more of your tempo ideas and how you believe them to be authoritative? >
At least Klemperer uses "REAL" singers!!

 

Matthew Passion - Herrewghe or Klemperer travesty?

Donald Satz wrote (December 5, 2000):
Charles Francis wrote:
< (snip) I do have the Scherchen recording and can understand the tension you refer too. However, for me, this opening chorus is spoilt by the massive choir (a similar fault to Mengelberg). However, I still prefer Scherchen to the faster Gardiner (1989), Herreweghe (1999) and Rilling (1994) recordings. I find the 1994 Rilling vacuous and the Herreweghe a travesty of the subject matter. (snip) >
Why is the Herreweghe reading of the opening chorus a travesty? Does this
also apply to the earlier Herreweghe recording as well?

Charles Francis wrote (December 6, 2000):
(To Donald Satz) I can't comment on the earlier recording as I don't own it, but do keep in mind the text "Come you daughters, help me lament/mourn ...See the bridegroom as if a lamb...Watch the patience...Look, look at our guilt....Look at him out of love and mercy, wood from the cross himself carrying".

I believe Herreweghe completely ignores the above text and to illustrate why, here's a review from a satisfied Amazon.com customer:

"A monument in Bach recording history: Finally, a recording of the Passion that dances! Herreweghe's recording should now be the benchmark by which all Bach recordings should be compared. No longer shall the continual argument of authenticity and performance practice limit the performance of Bach's music to mere scholastic rhetoric. Herreweghe most graciously remembers that all baroque music was some form of dance (try dancing to Klemperer's recording and you'll see what I mean) and that the rhythmic impulse in Bach's music is just as important as any harmony, melody or counterpoint. You will be hard pressed to find a more alive, soulful recording of Bach anywhere else. Imagine the intense drama and rich sonority of great conductors such as Fürtwangler and Klemperer, but without the suffocating and brutal self-flagellation. Herreweghe has found a way in which Bach can both breathe and explode at the same time. This recording is now the highlight of my extensive collection, and looks to be for a long time. - Paulo Carminati"

Given the text, I don't see any reason to dance and at least one Amazon.com customer agrees:

"Good, but minor disappointments: The acme of Johann Sebastian Bach's choral works, th"St. Matthew Passion", is generally well-performed on this CD. I am not at all happy, however, with the overly fast tempi of some of the choruses and many of the arias. The opening chorus, highly "caffeineated", should have set a more serious tone for the succeeding body of music. Instead, it is glossed over as if it were a jig - Jon Hunt"

Note well, the reference to a "jig" and contrast this with a negative review of the Klemperer performance:

"Dark, depressive and sloooooooooooooow: Klemperer makes Bach sounds like Bruckner or Wagner. Being so dark, depressive and dramatic, it's very difficult to listen to the 3 CDs in sequence. This album is not a first choice (I cast my vote on the Gardiner version), neither an essential recording, but a curiosity: how would Bach compose if he lived in late 19th century? - Adriano Brandao"

Well for me, the subject matter is "dark and depressive". Some other reviews of Klemperer:

"My personal favorite: As my other reviews indicate, Bach's St. Matthew Passion is an accomplishment which cannot be overstated, and is an essential component of any CD collection. But having said that, this recording of the work conducted by Otto von Klemperer is not a good choice for first exposure to the St. Matthew Passion. Why? Well, the approach taken is definitely not one of drama. The emphasis here is on contemplation, and even worship in a way. The main reflections of this spirit are: 1. slow tempi and 2. subtlety of emotional inflection. This recording tips the scales at close to 4 hours - more than an hour longer than most recordings. The opening chorus is twice as long as on most other recordings, as are the chorales. The advantage of this approach, in my mind, is that it gives the music time to unfold, gives the listener a chance to keep pace. The disadvantage is that even to the experienced listener the music can seem to lack a sense of movement (which it doesn't, I assure you - it just firmly maintains its own unique sense of movement, one which has evidently gone out of style). As to the subtlety of inflection, I think that approach is essential to this music, which should be an introspective and devotional experience. Another interpretational decision is the use of modern instruments - I much prefer the richness of sound. I personally happen to think that the reasoning behind the "authentic" movement is fallacious... but that's only my opinion. Your choice of which recording to buy will undoubtedly depend on your opinion as it relates to the instrumental approach, so remember that this one does not use period instruments. The choir is large, which adds a sense of power to the music. The soloists are all of high quality. Highly recommended. -Guy Cutting"

"Passion: I made the mistake of having this as my first recording of the St. Matthew's Passion. It is slow and powerful, which I often like, but for a piece of this length and emotional range, it is hard to hear it that way. But it grew on me slowly and now any other version I listen to seems trite in comparison. I keep coming back to this and like it more each time I hear it. I would recommend not getting this as your first recording so you can become familiar with the piece before becoming as emotionally attached to it as I am now with this recording. There is real passion here... - Jonathan Webster "

"Moving and Powerful, yet Difficult Recording : This recording of the St. Matthew Passion captures all the feeling and emotion present in the Biblical passages upon which it is based. It is an excellent recording to use for study due to its extremely slow tempo. The tempo, however, unfortunately makes it rather tedious if you do not love the piece before listening to this recording. The final chorus, "Wir setzen uns," is magnificently done, as is the opening chorus. The soloists are superb, and Klemperer certainly knows how to make one wait for a chord to resolve. All in all, it's simply
amazing. - E. Stadnik"

"Not authentic, but certainly a heartfelt expression of faith: Klemperer may not please the "authentic baroque" purists, but he brings a power dimension to Bach lacking in many "authentic" performances. The two choruses "kommt ihr Tochter" and "Sind Blitze sind Donner" both work very well with Klemperer's power style. More importantly, it is an expression of faith throughout, like the recitative "O Schmerz" where he gets Jesus trembling in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as the chorale "Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden" (possibly a reflection on Klemperer's brush with death 2 years before that). If you want an exercise in authentic baroque, this may not be for you, but if you want an expression of faith, you would be hard pressed to beat this."

"Astonishing!: I used to be a period instrument, John Eliot Gardiner all-the-way purist. This recording has changed my mind. I'd heard so much about the over-the-top sound and the garishly gigantic orchestras and choruses. I tried to steer clear. Maestro Klemperer and his superstar soloists (each a personal favorite) got the better of my curiosity, so I tried them out. It's a decision I don't think I'll ever regret. This recording is not too far removed from the myriad of "authentic" performances out there. Yes, the tempi are often slow and the big choruses are, well, big. One must realize, however, that this is nothing less than holy scripture set to music, that it should be grandiose and majestic.

Most importantly, this recording does not sound like the late romantic Bruckner; it sounds like the Baroque JS Bach. All of the recitatives and many of the arias are accompanied by the traditional obbligati and continuo (complete with George Malcolm at the harpsichord) in which each individual player, under Klemperer's baton, can be distinguished from the others. Even with full orchestra, Bach's full polyphonic genius is entirely present. No strain of counterpoint disappears. There is no homogenous sound. No aria is exactly repeated da capo. The embellishments on the repeats are tasteful, perhaps devout is the best word. Klemperer reads across the entire score, bringing to the work a completeness, a grand-scale unity that so many
"period instrument" conductors overlook. He takes things slowly, yes, at times, but quickly at others.

It is important to remember that JS Bach was known primarily in his lifetime as JS Bach the organist, not JS Bach the composer. In fact, as a composer, he was quite dissatisfied with his performers (well-documented in his own hand), as were his performers and audiences with his music. Part of the reason Bach's life is so interesting and his works are so varied is because he was fired from so many of his posts. I've come to realize that listening to Baroque only on period instruments and in period balance is much like seeing Shakespeare performed only with sixteenth century English pronunciation, in a Globe-like setting, with period costumes and minimalist Elizabethan sets. It may be interesting, illuminating, and fulfilling, but it is also quite limiting.

It is also important to remember that every name involved with this recording was a veteran performer and a musical intellectual. For those unfamiliar with the principle soloists, here is some information. Sir Peter Pears was the favorite tenor of the renowned composer Benjiman Britten. All of Britten's major operatic tenor roles (such as Peter Grimes) and songs were written for him. Dietrich-Fischer Dieskau is unanimously considered the best lieder singer on record, revolutionizing the genre with his pure, intellectual approach. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was the leading Mozart and Strauss soprano of her time. Her pure timbre crisp diction set her apart from her contemporaries. Christa Ludwig, equally comfortable with Wagner, Mozart, Puccini, and Strauss, was one of the most versatile mezzos of her time. Nicolai Gedda, an equally diverse musician, dominated the Mozart and Rossini roles and was the only noteworthy tenor in the Russian repertoire in his time. Walter Berry was one of the few basses capable of singing everything from Mozart's classical operas, through Wagner's romanticism, and intBerg's expressionism without lacking a thing. They went into this performance under the leadership of the veteran Otto Klemperer with the intention of presenting the work as best they could. What they produced is nothing short of miraculous. - Peter Mondelli"

Well to summarise my position, I consider the Herreweghe reading of the opening chorus a travesty because of its dance-like aspect which transcends the mere superficiality of Rilling's 1994 performance and become near-joyous. By contrast, the Klemperer reading is dark, depressive, moving, powerful, contemplative, and difficult to listen to - after all, the Matthew Passion was not meant to be elevator music!

Kirk McElhearn wrote (December 6, 2000):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Herreweghe most graciously remembers that all baroque music was some form of dance >
This comment, that was mentioned in one of the reviews you posted, is ridiculous. Saying that all baroque music was for dancing is just stupid.

While you can say this about dance movements, and, therefore, criticize the plodding romantic versions of, say, the orchestral suites, this has absolutely no bearing on choral or sacred music at all. You can't really imagine people dancing in churches, can you ....

Pieter Pannevis wrote (December 6, 2000):
(To Kirk McElhearn) I' m amazed at "the tone" of this message.
As we may differ in opinion it's correct if there is a disagreement to use
the phrase : " I think " or "in my opinion". (snip)

Perhaps it is not a custom to dance in churches nowadays, bit the "swinging " is really there in certain "downsouth" regions. Apart from that it IS known that there were dancers in the temple in Jerusalem and were would the recommendations from psalm 149:3 ( Let them praise his Name with dancing, making melody to him with trimbrel and lyre) and Psalm 150.4 (Praise him with trimbrel and dance) be performed ....? If praising is for the Lord it would have be done in the temple. See also the "dancing" Derwitzen. So " in my opinion" this statement may be open for correction !

Kirk McElhearn wrote (December 6, 2000):
(To Pieter Pannevis) Well, we are talking about Lutheran Germany. This is not southern Baptists...

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 6, 2000):
Isn't it possible for serious music lovers to have such discussions in a less ad hominem manner? This has been a worthy and informative discussion. I fear that both personal animosity and religious sentiments are creeping in and rearing their ugly heads. Let's remember that the respect for the text and the work is likely to be essential for any great musician who performs any work and all the more for one performing the passions. Let us also remember that Klemperer the Great was a Jew who converted for professional reasons to work in Vienna (like Mahler). Klemperer remained a Jew (neither being a Catholic, Lutheran, or a Southern Baptist) and eventually publically renounced his conversion. So, let us see where intolerance can lead to and try please to keep it off the list, a list from which I have profitted very much in a short time.

Donald Satz wrote (December 6, 2000):
(To Charles Francis) I thank Charles for his answers to my questions? I have not listened all that extensively to the newer Herreweghe, but I don't remember the opening chorus sounding as Charles does. I am intimately familiar with Herreweghe first set, and I consider it powerfully dark in concept. How about Gardiner? I recall his opening chorus being a walk in the park compared to the first Herreweghe.

Santu de Silva (Archimedes) wrote (December 6, 2000):
While I agree in broad terms with this writer's complaint about too fast performances of certain choruses of the SMP, I want to make it clear that dancing is not irreconcilable with grief and gravity.

The word "jig" is also problematic. I have to concede that I have, myself, used the fact that a movement has the broad "feel" of a jig (or gigue) to argue that it should have some of the rhythmic characteristics of a jig, and at least some of the rhythmic momentum of one. But the association of the word "jig" with joy and happiness is problematic here.

Does this first movement need to be rhythmic? I believe so. Does it need to be joyful? I am sure it shouldn't. Does "rhythmic" imply "joyful"? Well--should it, necesarily?

Personally I would think that my own mental concept of a gigue has to either be broadened to include more stately, more emotionally varied musical movements, such as the Kommt ihr Tochter (or whatever; I forget...) - - or I have to find a new idea that is a rhythmic jig-like dance that can still convey the confused bewilderment of that opening chorus.

The movement is NOT a simple jig. You can't have a jig with three shimering harmonies per pulse, such as we have in the chorus. Simple jigs have one, or at most two harmonies per pulse (or beat--I mean one of the four beats of the jig bar). For instance, in "Pop goes the Weasel", my favorite jig, the harmonic rhythm is four changes per bar or fewer. (Or perhaps a jig is in duple time, in which case we're talking two changes or fewer.)

But the jig is certainly at least the subconscious rhythmic inspiration for that movement, in a new, complex guise. Klemperer makes it so broad that it's difficult to hear a harmonic rhythm. Others take it so fast that we lose the feeling of confusion and loss that's so essential to the mood of that poetic chorus. It is one of the most wonderful choruses that Bach ever wrote (alongside Oh Mensch, bewein dein Sinde gross--sp?) and a delicate test of a conductor's sense of tempo and style. If it's done correctly there is a painful sensation of watching a situation spinning irretrievably out of control, heartburn, heartburn, heartburn. I have written about this chorus at other times and gotten very sentimental, but suffice it to say that in my opinion the SMP is such an emotionally and intellectually complex work that it boggles the mind. And the opening chorus is a huge part of the work's effect.

Gönnenwein's evangelist does leave much to be desired, but he (Gönnenwein) does this chorus well. So does Harnoncourt (the 1970's version). Gardiner is OK. (He uses a ripieno choir of girls and boys, an interesting variation that I'm not unhappy with. At least with the mixed-chorus versions there is a contrast between the ripieno trebles and the main choruses--with the all-male choirs of Harnoncourt the ripieno trebles do not stand out as much as I like them to.

The other minor miracle in the SMP is the closing chorus! Is it just me or does this chorus sound incredibly modern? I mean, it could easily be Brahms! My skin crawls at the range of expression that Bach achieves in this single work.

I'm dying to hear the new Herreweghe version; how much of a travesty is it, really? I must find out! I must start saving the $50 I need for this one!

Santu De Silva (Archimedes) wrote (December 6, 2000):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Herreweghe most graciously remembers that all baroque music was some form of dance
This comment, that was mentioned in one of the reviews you posted, is ridiculous. Saying that all baroque music was for dancing is just stupid.
While you can say this about dance movements, and, therefore, criticize the plodding romantic versions of, say, the orchestral suites, this has absolutely no bearing on choral or sacred music at all. You can't really imagine people dancing in churches, can you .... >
I have to disagree. Dance music absolutely does have a bearing on choral music in Bach. Admittedly the relationship is subtle, but it most definitely exists. Many of the choruses ARE gigues, and the opening chorus of the SMP is arguably at the very least a not-so-distant cousin to the gigue.

What is "bearing"? What is "dance"? What is "sacred"? What is "stupid" ?!!!! If we can discern degrees of meaning and truth, somewhere in the dogma there might be some useful understanding.

 

A Discarded Das Lied?

Donald Satz wrote (January 21, 2001):
Ron Chaplin writes concerning Bach's St. Matthew Passion:
< Right now, with my car player, I'm listening to the recording conducted by Otto Klemperer with P, Fischer-Dieskau, Schwarzkopf and Ludwig (EMI ZDMC 7 63058 2). Even though I am not familiar at all with the words, the singing and the accompaniment is very beautiful.
I'm wondering how this recording stacks up against other recordings. ?
This can be a loaded subject. At one extreme are many folks who consider the Klemperer version about the best ever recorded. On the other side are those who find it bloated and ponderous. As it happens, I'm in the preparation stage of reviewing the Klemperer along with a few period instrument sets. Klemperer's performance is very slow, and a perfect example is the opening chorus (over 11 minutes). Of course, it's all a matter of personal taste. I tend to prefer quicker readings and have a great deal of affection for the first Herreweghe recording on Harmonia Mundi.

Mats Norrman writes of my list of favorite music:
< I always wondered when people produce lists, like Mr. Satzes, how temporary they actually are. Was it the list of the day or does the list roughly look the same 2 months later. >
My favorites haven't changed much over the past 10 years or so, although I'm sure I can be as inconsistent as the next person. The only music I really go for these days that I wouldn't have listened to at all a few years ago would be romantic-era chamber music from composers such as Dvorak and Faure. Also, my enthusiasm for orchestral music in general has declined.

 

St. Matthew Passion/Klemperer

Bruno D.F wrote (March 4, 2003):
Anyone for the 1947 Klemperer recording? The general tempo is excruciatingly slow, and because of that, succeeds in giving that sense of "bellitlement" of man when confronted to his creator, knowing though that eventually, He will redeem you. Was Klemperer a protestant? If so, that would be an astonishing feat, for a protestant, to bring about the innate strength of catholicism.

Xavier Otazu wrote (March 4, 2003):
[To Bruno D.F.] My reply doesn't bring anything useful, but I would like to tell that Klemperer St. Matthew Passion is, by far, my preferred version (among Herreweghe, Harnoncourt and Gardiner). His very slow tempo allows to listen to everyone of the instruments from the orchestra and voices from the chorus.

To my taste is a superb recording.

Peter Bright wrote (March 4, 2003):
[To Xavier Otazu] What's the recording quality like on the 1947 recording? I have his famous early '60s performance, which I always think is one recording which you really have to sit right through from beginning to end to appreciate properly (if you have a couple of days free, of course :D). It's an exhausting but highly charged/moving experience. Unbearably slow at times (K showed much less flexibility in his tempos across the sections than Richter '58 (who sometimes rattles through some of the arias and choruses, relatively speaking). But K's stately approach does pay enormous dividends, if the listener allows him or herself the patience and time to listen through once every year or two.

Bruno D.F wrote (March 4, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] It's in mono, obviously, and the sound has none of the dynamic range of today's recordings. Plus, it's a record I had found in a charity shop, so it's was quite scratched. But with proper concentration, and with the help of the score, you could distinguish the various voices. There is something to be said about slow tempis, as long as they are used consistently throughout a piece.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 4, 2003):
Bruno D.F. wrote:
< Anyone for the 1947 Klemperer recording? >
Is there a recording of SMP by Klemperer from 1947? In my continuing research to compile complete lists of the recordings of Bach's vocal works (all of them can be found in the Bach Cantatas Website), I have never come accross such a recording. If this is not a mistake in the year of recording, would you be please so kind to send me the details, so that I shall be able to update the list: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244.htm

Bruno D.F wrote (March 4, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I had transferred the vinyl to CD, but had taken care of scanning the sleeves notes. I have just moved, and it might take me a while to unpack everything. I am pretty sure of the year, 1947. At any rate, it is a pre-stereo day recording, and the sleeve was in a very poor condition, a good indication of its age.

Bradley Lerhman wrote (March 4, 2003):
BdF wrote:
< Anyone for the 1947 Klemperer recording? The general tempo is excruciatingly slow, and because of that, succeeds in giving that sense of "bellitlement" of man when confronted to his creator, knowing though that eventually, He will redeem you. Was Klemperer a protestant? If so, that would be an astonishing feat, for a protestant, to bring about the innate strength of catholicism. >
Klemperer was Jewish, then converted to Roman Catholicism.

His SMP was recorded from November 21 1960 through November 28 1961, on fifteen different days, plus a session on December 4 1961 to supervise the overdubbing of Schwarzkopf and Berry in a few short sections (the scene of Peter's denial to the maids; and bits of the recitative "Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh gebracht" before the final chorus). His only 1947 recording of anything was an aircheck of Mahler's "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen". [Source: the discography in Peter Heyworth's biography of Klemperer, volume 2.]

Yes, I like Klemperer's SMP. But I was listening again to Mengelberg's yesterday, and Wow!....

Bradley Lerhman wrote (March 4, 2003):
BdF: any chance this was a bootleg recording from a performance with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, 1946? (Or perhaps somebody else's performance mis-attributed to Klemperer?!)

Heyworth in his text (both volumes) mentions some complete performances from the 1920s etc; and then the Roman one from 1946. Then, he doesn't have any more references to the SMP until the time of the stereo recording, 1960 and 61.

His failure to mention any others doesn't necessarily mean there weren't any others, of course. But Michael H Gray's discography (appendix to both of Heyworth's books) purports to be comprehensive, and he does not list any recording of the SMP other than the familiar 1961 Philharmonia set. In his introduction, he writes: "Recordings from concerts and broadcasts, if issued commercially, have also been included in this discography (prefixed L). Those made for the conductor's personal use, or those he did not pass for issue or which he left incomplete, however, have been omitted. References to them may be found in Stephen J Pettit's Philharmonia Orchestra: Complete Discography 1945-1987, published by John Hunt in 1987."

BdF wrote (March 5, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] No, I do not think so, it looked like a legit production, proper record cover & notes, etc.... It was an "excerpts", not a complete edition.

Sorry I can't be more precise at the moment.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 8, 2003):
Xavier Otazu wrote:
< My reply doesn't bring anything useful, but I would like to tell that Klemperer St. Matthew Passion is, by far, my preferred version (among Herreweghe, Harnoncourt and Gardiner). His very slow tempo allows to listen to everyone of the instruments from the orchestra and voices from the chorus. >
A bit of trivia about it: some of the recitatives are not conducted by Klemperer, or by anybody. Peter Pears was upset about the way Klemperer conducted them, and (without Klemperer's knowledge or permission) he got together with George Malcolm and some others and they re-recorded them.

[Source: Peter Heyworth's Otto Klemperer: His Life and Times, volume 2,
1933-1973
, pp294-5...the footnote says this information is from a 1990 interview with Malcolm.]

 

Klemperer's Saint Matthew Passion

Bob Henderson wrote (February 29, 2004):
Bach's Saint Matthew Passion recorded by Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Philharmonia Choir with Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkoph, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Berry is a staple (I think) of the recorded catalogue.

It was the first SMP I encountered. Today I still have the LPs (wor) and the digital remake (never to be worn).

In front of me is the literature supplied with the LP set c 1962. Beautiful. A full 12"by12" booklet with high quality prints from the National Gallery, London. Also included is an essay on the Passion by William Mann. The digital remake has nothing of this. No big deal. The sound is the issue and in the final analysis the CD will act as the vehicle for the presevation of this performance. Yet something is lost. Plastic doesn't always make it.

This SMP introduced me to Bach's larger works. Good thing because no recording could be larger than this one. It is slow. It sprawls. But of a time and place it continues to impress. But Richter in his earlier (1959) ( ! ) performance soon replaced the Klemperer in my universe. ( today with all the HIP performances I still find the last hour of this recording the most heart wrenching and beautiful....)

But Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Jesus in the scene from the "Last Supper" in Klemperer has never been surpassed. There are others. I intend to renew my relationship with this recording over the next month and will report to the list.

Sato Fumitaka wrote (February 29, 2004):
Bob Henderson wrote:
< The sound is the issue and in the final analysis the CD will act as the vehicle for the presevation of this performance. Yet something is lost. Plastic doesn't always make it. >
I think it is, probably, mainly caused by delicately changed balance of sounds in the mixing process of making a CD.

Sw Anandgyan wrote (February 29, 2004):
Bob Henderson wrote:
< snip> This SMP introduced me to Bach's larger works. Good thing because no recording could be larger than this one. It is slow. It sprawls. But of a time and place it continues to impress. But Richter in his earlier (1959) ( ! ) performance soon replaced the Klemperer in my universe. ( today with all the HIP performances I still find the last hour of this recording the most heart wrenching and beautiful....)
But Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Jesus in the scene from the "Last Supper" in Klemperer has never been surpassed. There are others. I intend to renew my relationship with this recording over the next month and will report to the list. >
Please do Bob !

I'm currently in a SMP craze. Right now is Diego Fasolis' recording playing. I have mentioned acquiring Karl Forster conducting and there are some exquisite moments with his take; at one point, sorry for not being exact, the music literally slows down to come to a halt and the effect is so gorgeous.

I'm still 'impressed' (as in scared ) with needing two hours and a half to get through the whole SMP so my acclimatizing to this oeuvre has been slow to say the least.

Those recordings with modern instruments from the Sixties have a definite appeal and I may be more inclined to give the Klemperer's SMP a listen after more of your comments. I appreciate the ones already offered.

Bob Henderson wrote (March 1, 2004):
I have been thinking about context. As a college student I grew into good music through Otto Klemperer's recordings: Beethoven for the most part. His records with the Philharmonia Orchestra (created for him?) thrilled me. His Missa Solemnis still r ranks with the best. I never listened to his Mozart; I was not interested in Mozart.

Last week and for the first time I unsealed a recording of the Magic Flute. An old LP, a time capsule. What an experience. Klemperer's opera is perfect. I have heard and collected other versions. But there is something in this performance which will stand in time. And then there is his Fidelio and his Wagner. He is an opera conducter without peer. How does this affect how we hear the SMP? Like his Massiah which I still listen to, he is at his best when he tells a story. When the story is not there, as in his recording of the B Minor Mass, he falls flat and he is the stodgy perpretator.

If we are able to see his SMP as a religious opera ( I know its not: so what? ) we can forgive all and allow the experience to flow. And flow it does. After 40 years I was back into it after five minutes.

John Pike wrote (March 14, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] BBC Music Magazine this month has a review of all the available recordings of the Magic Flute, and Klemperer's comes out top!

 

Klemperer & Mengelberg

Continue of discussion from: Thomaskantors & Thomanerchor Leipzig - General Discussions - Part 2 [Performers]

Doug Cowling wrote (January 6, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Although Klemperer's interprtation was eccentric even by contemporary standards, I still love listening to it to hear the incredible discipline of the performers -- all those ritardandi and allargandi in the opening chorus must have taken weeks of rehearsal to prepare!

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 6, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Even more so, the live Mengelberg recording of the SMP. (Or, really, the Mengelberg recordings of just about anything.) The way the whole orchestra and chorus stuck with his extreme fluctuations is astounding, and I find the performances very moving too. One of the effects that comes across is that every musician onstage is paying rapt attention to both the music and the director: there's nothing automatic or half-baked about any of it.

Anybody here have both the new Naxos issue of this Mengelberg SMP (transfer by Mark Obert-Thorn) and the older Philips, with any remarks about differences in sonics? I have the Philips and haven't got around to picking up the Naxos yet. Amazon.com

The Air from the D major suite and the double violin concerto in D minor have been available in other M-O-T transfers already (Biddulph 024). That one also has the Tchaikovsky Serenade, Mozart "Eine kleine Nachtmusik", and Vivaldi's op 3 #8. Some especially interesting harpsichord continuo playing there in the Vivaldi...it makes it sound almost like a harpsichord concerto.

A good resource is Early Recordings and Musical Style : Changing Tastes in
Instrumental Performance, 1900-1950

by Robert Philip....

Klemperer's SMP was recorded on 15 different days from November 1960 to November 1961, in two or three different locations...and then Peter Pears and the continuo players got together later and redid some of the recitatives without Klemperer's knowledge or participation. (Source: Heyworth's bio of OK, interviewing George Malcolm.)

Bob Henderson wrote (January 6, 2005):
Klemperer also recorded a B Minor Mass with Giebel, Baker, Gedda and Prey and the New Philharmonia and the BBC Chorus (Angel SC 3720). Probably never made it to disc. What a cast of soloists! Klemperer is the teacher of my youth but this performance is a sleeper and I do use the term in its literal sense. Too bad.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 6, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Klemperer's SMP was recorded on 15 different days from November 1960 to November 1961, in two or three different locations...and then Peter Pears and the continuo players got together later and redid some of the recitatives without Klemperer's knowledge or participation. >
Tell us more!

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 6, 2005):
< Klemperer also recorded a B Minor Mass with Giebel, Baker, Gedda and Prey and the New Philharmonia and the BBC Chorus (Angel SC 3720). Probably never made it to disc. >
Yes, it has been on the EMI/Angel 2-CD set 63364, from 1990. I have it here. Recorded on 13 different days in 1967.

Prey does only the "Et in spiritum sanctum"; Franz Crass sings the "Quoniam".

There was also a live Klemperer BMM with the same cast, a week after they finished the commercial recording: 16 November 1967. I haven't heard it. Uri?

These are entries #191 and #L-120 in the Klemperer discography, in the back of volume 2 of Heyworth's bio of Klemperer. The discography is by Michael H Gray, and is current through 1996 (the publication of Heyworth's book, after Heyworth's own death in 1991).

< Klemperer's SMP was recorded o15 different days from November 1960 to November 1961, in two or three different locations...and then Peter Pears and the continuo players got together later and redid some of the recitatives without Klemperer's knowledge or participation. (Source: Heyworth's bio of OK, interviewing George Malcolm.) >
I missed one footnote here in the discography, where the SMP is #118: "A further session was held on 4 December 1961 to superimpose Schwarzkopf and Berry in No. 45 A & B and in No. 77." So, it was 16 different days plus the secret continuo remake sessions with Pears. Those details about the project as a whole are on pages 294-5 of the Heyworth book. Klemperer did a live performance of the SMP three months after completing the recording, same cast except that Agnes Giebel substituted for Schwarzkopf.

As Heyworth remarked elsewhere in the book, I forget where: Klemperer routinely treated his recordings as rehearsals for forthcoming concerts, rather than vice versa!

Doug Cowling wrote (January 6, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< As Heyworth remarked elsewhere in the book, I forget where: Klemperer routinely treated his recordings as rehearsals for forthcoming concerts, rather than vice versa! >
Interesting. Culshaw makes the same complaint about Furtwängler whose refusal to do make multiple takes and basic distain for recording ultimately led Solti being chosen to conduct the Decca Ring Cycle.

Anthony Olszowy wrote (January 6, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I have the Naxos release, and I recall very well the old Phillips original release from the music library of my undergraduate university. If my memory serves me correctly, the Naxos recording seems to have been reengineered to eliminate much of a rather booming b.c. Not always a good thing.

Uri Golomb wrote (January 7, 2005):
< There was also a live Klemperer BMM with the same cast, a week after they finished the commercial recording: 16 November 1967. I haven't heard it. Uri? >
I know of this recording (Hunt Productions HUNTCD 727; listed in Schwann-Opus, October 1990), but unfortunately I never managed to locate an accessible copy. I would still very much like to hear it. I've never heard live recordings of Klemperer, but several reviews I've read suggest that he was more flexible live than in the studio (in my experience, BTW, this is not as self-evident as it may seem: some artists manage to be every bit as free in the studio as they are live).

I did hear the excerpts from his aborted 1961 recording, released on Testament SBT 1138 (the CD contains all the choruses which were completed before the project was dropped). In several respects, it is a better performance than the 1967 version (for one thing, I enjoyed the choral singing more); but on the whole, the interpretation is very similar.

If anyone else here knows how it might be possible to obtain that Hunt Production CD, I'd be very interested (though I'd also like to know what its legal standing is -- and what the soudn quality is like).

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 7, 2005):
< I did hear the excerpts from his aborted 1961 recording, released on Testament SBT 1138 (the CD contains all teh choruses which were completed before the project was dropped). In several respects, it is a better performance than the 1967 version (for one thing, I enjoyed the choral singing more); but on the whole, the interpretation is very similar. >
I haven't heard that Testament disc of BMM excerpts, but there are five other Testament discs of Klemperer that I'd need on a desert island.

Most of these are the refugees that Angel/EMI chose not to issue in the big K editions, since later stereo remakes were available...but these 1950s mono recordings are wonderful. The Mozart 38/39/Notturna, Mozart 29/41/Nachtmusik, the Don Giovanni from Cologne 1955, the Petrushka (really wild and woolly!) and Pulcinella, and the Bach Orchestral Suites from 1954. That latter is plainspoken and forthright, as Klemperer preferred his Bach performances to be, but also (it seems to me) remarkably pure and exciting. "Unproblematic" would be another good word for it.

 

SMP Klemperer

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 26, 2008):
Sometime ago I received off-list a message from Tim Williams regarding the SMP conducted by Klemperer.
I suggested to him to join the BCML and post his message. AFAIK, he has not joined us yet.
I would not like his message to go away unmentioned. So here it is, awaiting your responses.

*********************************************************
I am constrained to write having read some of the remarks about the Klemperer recording.

I have first hand knowledge of this having been one of the male altos who firmed up the soprano ripieno in the first and last choruses of part one both in the recordings and at the RFH where the work was performed to 'launch' the recording.

There is nothing to be gained in discussions on authenticity or historical accuracy. The recording is a mass of imperfections and is full of glorious moments. It should be regarded as an act of worship first and a performance second (Klemperer would not allow the RFH bars to open in the interval between parts one and two).

Fischer Dieskau is magnificent, a model for all who come to follow; Pears was arguably past his best.

But there is much to be enjoyed in this and many subsequent versions; as I write I am listening to Cleobury and King's - probably the only satisfactory version using a boy's choir as Bach would have done. As John Eliot Gardiner has remarked this is simply no longer possible since boy's voices now break too early for them to gain the required musical skills.

For intellectual insight into musical sense and logic choose the Gardiner, for clarity choose the new Butt recording. I also own the Richter, a concert recording by Herreweghe from the 1998 proms and the Rilling (to be enjoyed for Quasthoff's fine singing).

Back to Klemperer. Had he been in his prime he would never have allowed the anarchy which is prevalent in the use of ornamentation which varied from aria to aria and in one notorious case from part to part. In the event he had barely recovered sufficiently from a stroke and serious burns to have much influence on the proceedings - so credit should go to the soloists, the leader (uncredited but probably Hugh Bean) and the concert master, Wihelm Pitz, for holding the proceedings together at all.

Tim Williams
*********************************************************

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 26, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] With the greatest respect for Dr. Klemperer and his amazing career, one must take into account that he was making all kinds of extreme recordings. It is often the fact here that a performer is considered in reference to his Bach with total disregard of his career. Dr. Klemperer is also notorious for a 2 hour Mahler 7th Symphony, the most outrageous thing ever created.Again with respect to Tim, it is unfair to receive a pontification on what we should like and buy and what we should not like and respond to from someone who is not here to discuss with. Such posts perhaps should join the archives and not have the opportunity to be discussed. I rather disagree with most of the declarations of Tim. I respect that he participated in this awful performance which to me has ONE SAVING GRACE alone: Christa Ludwig's "Erbarme dich" is simply glorious. I do not respond to anything else in this recording and have held that view for about 40 years. I respect Dr. Klemperer for his contribution to the resurrection of Mahler's music and all the more that (sorry, Doug) he renounced his apostasy and resumed his Jewish identity and still he loved Bach. Dr. Klemperer had an amazing life and came close to dying a few times and had an indomitable soul and should be honored.

Again one cannot discuss with someone not here on the list.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 26, 2008):
Aryeh quoted the following:
>There is nothing to be gained in discussions on authenticity or historical accuracy.<
Perhaps it is unfair to cite this out of context, but I find that the discussions on BCML, however heated, overdrawn, and worse, usually end in a concludingstatement or two which add to my knowledge of a subject, and enjoyment of the music.

>The recording is a mass of imperfections and is full of glorious moments.<
Are not they all? Music is mostly about live performance experience and commucication. I plan to spend a few avaialble moments on current discussions, and return to the Klemperer SMP post after that.

Apologies for the brief <snips>. I conclude with my often repeated thought that posts from performers of Bachs music are the most welcome of all.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 26, 2008):
<>

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 26, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Many of the glorious moments are VERY glorious indeed.

I wonder whether what Gardiner says is really true. There are plenty of recordings that show that young boys can sing difficult music well.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 26, 2008):
>I respect Dr. Klemperer for his contribution to the resurrection of Mahler's music and all the more that (sorry, Doug) he renounced his apostasy and resumed his Jewish identity and still he loved Bach.<
I enjoyed a local production this afternoon. Fron the program notes:

<The Producers is populated with colorful characters and enlivened with witty songs filled with sly cultural references. It also relies heavily on crass and obvious stereotypes meant to offend all equally, with mincing gays, sex-object women, greedy Jews, bubble-headed Swedes, oversexed old ladies, gruff Irish cops and kick lines of singing Nazis.>

The Poles (not to mention the French) do not even rise to the level of ridicule, for Mel Brooks! I take offense.

Aloha, Ed Myskowski (Quebecois maman)

Uri Golomb wrote (May 26, 2008):
James Atkins Pritchard wrote:
< I wonder whether what Gardiner says is really true. There are plenty of recordings that show that young boys can sing difficult music well. >
What precisely did Gardiner say, though? Was he talking about boys' CHOIRS or about boy SOLOISTS? There is a difference! In Leonhardt's SMP, for instance, I very much enjoy the singing of the Tolzer Knabenchor, but in the soprano arias, I find the phrasing of the boy soloists wooden and unmusical. And this is not an isolated case. My usual problem with boy soloists, I should stress, is not technical -- those emerging from choirs like the Tolzer are often just fine in this sense -- but musical: too often, they are blunt and insensitive and their phrasing, lack variety in their dynamics, etc. This is especially evident in duets -- when they have to partner with adult singers (say, in soprano-bass duets) or with instrumentalists (say, arias for soprano with oboe obbligato). Then, the gap in musical insight between the boys and their more mature fellow-musicians is sometimes painfully evident.

Shabtai Atlow wrote (May 26, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Try Mel Brooks "To Be or Not To Be" (see imdb here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086450/ ):
Plot synopsis: " A bad Polish actor is just trying to make a living when what should intrude but World War II in the form of an invasion..."

So far as I know, Brooks (born Kaminsky) has not renounced his apostasy. I still enjoy his films.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 26, 2008):
[To Shabtai Atlow] Even better, try the original To Be or not to Be with the great Jack Benny. The Mel Brooks version was based on it??

Shabtai Atlow wrote (May 26, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] Yes, you are right, the Mel Brooks version was a remake. However, Ed was taking umbrage at Mel Brooks not being worthy of ridicule. Hence, the reference.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 26, 2008):
Re: the St Matthew Passion recording conducted by Klemperer:

< Fischer Dieskau is magnificent, a model for all who come to follow; Pears was arguably past his best.
(...)
Back to Klemperer. Had he been in his prime he would never have allowed the anarchy which is prevalent in the use of ornamentation which varied from aria to aria and in one notorious case from part to part. In the event he had barely recovered sufficiently from a stroke and serious burns to have much influence on the proceedings - so credit should go to the soloists, the leader (uncredited but probably Hugh Bean) and the concert master, Wihelm Pitz, for holding the proceedings together at all. >
Wasn't Pitz the chorus master?

Reading Peter Heyworth's biography of Klemperer I'm intrigued by the disagreements during that recording process. Klemperer apparently didn't like the way either Pears or Fischer-Dieskau were singing their parts; he wanted a more matter-of-fact storytelling delivery, not emotion. Pears and some others didn't like the way Klemperer conducted the recitatives (or the fact that he conducted them at all)...and they got together secretly and re-recorded them without Klemperer's knowledge
or permission!

A scan of that page: http://launch.ph.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/photos/view/7c67?b=1&m=f&o=0

The recording was made on 16 different days (which might or might not include the secret days to redo recitatives...I'm not sure), working around the schedules of the various musicians. Earlier discussion of that: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Klemperer.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 26, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
> Wasn't Pitz the chorus master? <
Pitz was the chorus master at the Bayreuth Festival.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 26, 2008):
> Wasn't Pitz the chorus master? <
< Pitz was the chorus master at the Bayreuth Festival. >
Right, but he's credited with preparing the chorus for Klemperer's SMP too.

Maybe Wagner's megalomania plays a role here in the grand conception of the music? I like listening to it, myself. Not sure Bach would have "recognized it without bewilderment", in Marie Leonhardt's memorable phrase.

I'm listening to the old Ifor Jones / Bethlehem Bach Choir set of the B Minor Mass this week. It was my first exposure to the piece when I was young. Fun to revisit it now and hear it differently.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 26, 2008):
[To Uri Golomb] You make some excellent points. I assumed that Gardiner was talking about boy choristers rather than soloists. It seems I may have jumped to this conclusion.

I agree with your comments about boys as soloists.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 30, 2008):
< What precisely did Gardiner say, though? Was he talking about boys' CHOIRS or about boy SOLOISTS? There is a difference! In Leonhardt's SMP, for instance, I very much enjoy the singing of the Tolzer Knabenchor, but in the soprano arias, I find the phrasing of the boy soloists wooden and unmusical. And this is not an isolated case. My usual problem with boy soloists, I should stress, is not technical -- those emerging from choirs like the Tolzer are often just fine in this sense -- but musical: too often, they are blunt and insensitive and their phrasing, lack variety in their dynamics, etc. This is especially evident in duets -- when they have to partner with adult singers (say, in soprano-bass duets) or with instrumentalists (say, arias for soprano with oboe obbligato). Then, the gap in musical insight between the boys and their more mature fellow-musicians is sometimes painfully evident. >
as a "mere" listener and not a musicologist or even a musician, it seems to me that the sound of the soprano soloists in the Leonhardt MP is well likely to be much nearer what Bach would have heard than the sound of Schwarzkopf, Ludwig, DFD, and Gedda and Pears.

I simply find it impossible to believe that Bach would recognize the sound of these major 20th century operatic voices, some of whom I personally find great artists and some of whom I don't respond to at all. Be that as it may, as a whole this is not a Bach sound to me.

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - R. Chailly | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwängler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Münchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - S. Rattlr | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

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
Arrangements/Transcriptions:
Works | Recordings of Works for Orchestra

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Last update: żAugust 13, 2010 ż15:24:35