This is one of those occasions where a recording company has given classical music lovers an unusually generous disc, in this case by packaging several of Carlos Kleiber's performances together into one very full disc (with a total 79 1/2 minutes), and very well-regarded performances they are at that.
First, the contents (since they are not fully detailed here by Amazon):
- Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759 "Unfinished" -- Carlos Kleiber conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; recorded Sept 1978
- Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 -- Carlos Kleiber conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; recorded March 1980
In addition to the two symphonies above, the disc includes two excerpts from Kleiber's recording of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde:
- Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde: Act 3, scene 3, "Tod und Hölle" -- Carlos Kleiber conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), Wolfgang Hellmich (Baritone), Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano), Werner Goetz (Baritone), Kurt Moll (Bass); recorded February 1981
- Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde: "Mild und leise wie er lächelt" (Isoldes Liebestod) -- Carlos Kleiber conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle, with Margaret Price (Soprano); recorded February 1981 (this is the very final track of the opera)
These performances have received great praise over the years. ClassicToday.com said that this release "winningly pairs two of the late conductor's finest performances", going on to comment to the Schubert performance: "rarely has the first movement been done with such dramatic sweep in the more turbulent passages, while the Vienna strings adorn the lyrical second subject with a beguiling sweet tone. This is an Unfinished that even jaded listeners will hear with fresh ears." To the Brahms: "Kleiber's vital and stirring yet immaculately transparent conducting, along with the Vienna Philharmonic's highly alert and virtuosic playing, make this one of the finest versions ever recorded. DG captures both works in vivid, high-impact sound". My copy of the The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2008 lists this as one of the recommended recordings for these pieces, saying about the Brahms "Carlos Kleiber's famous CD version is a performance of real stature and much strength", and to this recording overall "with its generous new couplings, this carries the strongest recommendation at mid-price". Gramophone praises this recording as well, in the Classical Music Guide 2012 stating "Kleiber's charismatic Vienna recording, a classic of sorts and still sounding exceptionally well, continues to stand its ground".
The Wagner pieces are barely enough to give a sampling of Kleiber's interpretation, and Margaret Price's performance is vibrant (Penguin recommends this performance, and says that "Kleiber directs a compellingly impulsive reading, crowned by the glorious Isolde of Margaret Price, the most purely beautiful of any complete interpretation on record").
Finally, as a reference since the performances compiled on this disc have been released previously, and to see other reviews to those specific recordings, you can go to the following pages on Amazon:
- Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
- Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8
- Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde
The main attraction to this disc is Kleiber's Brahms 4, and for anyone seeking out that recording then the choice is clearly this disc, with the additional material included and for practically the same price. with all of the performances worth including in any classical music collection.