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- Published on Amazon.com
By sheer coincidence, two video documentaries appeared a few years back from Europe about the conductor Carlos Kleiber. One was "Traces to Nowhere", and this, "Carlos Kleiber: I Am Lost to the World" is the other. This is the shorter of the two, by nearly a quarter hour, but of the two, it actually tries to probe deeper psychologically into the man. It also brings more to the fore the inherent tensions in the relationship between the father (Erich) and the son (Carlos), when one is the son of a great conductor, and himself expresses interest in becoming a conductor. Erich tried to dissuade Carlos at first, as is generally known, but after a period at university attempting to study chemistry (and also chasing girls, apparently), Carlos went back to his father to say that he still wanted to be a conductor. So things went from there.
The psychological probing from some of the interviewees brings up some questionable ideas, at least to me, such as regarding the possibility that the Kleiber parents may have had suicidal tendencies, and perhaps even acted on them at their respective ends, although the film explicitly does not state this as such. The interviewees kind of toss in the idea. The film even has an extreme possibility, if you strain to read between the lines, of this scenario with respect to the end of Carlos Kleiber's own life, not long after the death of his wife Stanka. In fact, the film notes the terrible coincidence of Carlos being diagnosed with cancer just around the time of the death of his wife.
Also compared to the other film, the interviewees here seem willing to dish a bit more of the dirt, in a manner of speaking, regarding such issues as to how Kleiber could drive musicians around the bend with his incessant demands when they already seem to be giving 200% to him. There's also greater, though not terribly extended, mention of his inside reputation as a womanizer, even naming at least one name in Lucia Popp, to the point where he said to her essentially "let's live together". One interviewee even claimed that for Kleiber's rare guest appearances in the USA, the Americans also met Kleiber's demands in that realm (though not the Germans, of course). There is also the briefest allusion that his wife Stanka knew about her husband's proclivities in that area, and how it must have affected her. But the film also mentions that Kleiber was very saddened after his wife's death.
Several interviewees overlap between the two films, namely the oboist Klaus Konig, the director Otto Schenk, fellow conductor Michael Gielen, and Kleiber biographer Alexander Werner. One interesting contrast is that Gielen here appears more willing to reveal how difficult Kleiber could be, compared to the other film, though Gielen still acknowledges Kleiber's greatness, of course. However, several notable figures appear here who are not in the other film, including Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch and Peter Jonas, the latter two from the Bavarian State Opera, where Kleiber spent a notable amount of time in his career (relatively speaking). Likewise, several musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the NDR Symphony, as well as the Bavarian State Opera share their memories, with at least one willing to say clearly that Kleiber wasn't always Herr Nice Guy. Ileana Cotrubas (Violetta in Kleiber's DG recording of "La Traviata") is rare among the interviewees in being a singer, while for knowledgeable Americans, it's interesting to see Pamela Rosenberg, past 'Intendantin' of the Berlin Philharmonic, make a brief appearance to talk about Kleiber. Rather curiously, both of them are featured either just before the passage, or in the midst of, the passage that goes into Kleiber's womanizing, with particular mention by Rosenberg of how charming and charismatic he could be with the ladies.
Both documentaries share some footage that has appeared in another DVD of rehearsal of the overtures to "Der Freischutz" and "Die Fledermaus". Where this film has an edge in that regard is in also showing rehearsal footage from the Bayreuth Festspielhaus orchestra pit, presumably from video cameras set up for off-stage singers to be able to see him, and also from the Vienna Philharmonic in preparing for the New Year's Day concert, where of course cameras had to be set up in advance. In fact, it's kind of funny to read a Vienna Philharmonic player telling Kleiber that the audience will clap along during the "Radeztky March", and Kleiber's apparent appalled reaction. It's hard to believe that Kleiber wouldn't know in advance that this would happen. There is evidently also surreptitiously recorded audio rehearsal footage from an extremely rare appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic.
This film's ultimate trump card is that it features audio excerpts of the one recorded interview that exists of Kleiber, a 1960 German radio interview, where he does talk about his father a bit, and his musical upbringing. During the film, several interviewees elaborated on the fact that Kleiber never gave interviews, and also why he didn't, but apparently in ignorance of this one audio document.
There are some quirks and apparent Google Translator-ish errors in the English presentation, such as one apparent mistranslation in the subtitles of "counterpoint" as "contrabass" (the word that Kleiber used was "kontrapunkt"), and at one point to describe a particular instrumentalist, "deep blower", and a mistranslation of "stadium" for the word for "stage".
So if you come across these two video documentaries of Carlos Kleiber, it's probably not a choice of one or the other as "better". You'll probably want to watch both, since for the most part, the material is fairly non-overlapping and Kleiber fans will want to take it all in.