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Decca Recordings Eric Kleiber [Box set]

E-Various Various/Kleiber Audio CD

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some of Kleiber's Finest Recordings April 10 2005
By Jeffrey Lipscomb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This set is a great supplement to Kleiber's volume in the IMG "Great Conductors" series, despite some overlap (both sets contain the same account of Mozart's 40th). And, as Michael Richman notes in his review below, Decca has already issued two of these readings from Amsterdam (the 5th & Eroica) in its "Decca Legends" series. Repertoire-wise, this set also has the redundancy of TWO recordings each of Beethoven's Eroica & Pastoral symphonies. The transfers of the Amsterdam and Vienna recordings compare well with the earlier London LPs, while the Cologne Radio items are merely okay (slightly congested in comparison with the Amadeo LPs).

Of the two Eroicas, I slightly prefer the 1953 Vienna account to the 1950 Amsterdam, both sonically and interpretively. If memory serves, Kleiber was not entirely happy with the Vienna's sound and it was only issued after his death on a budget $1.98 Richmond LP. I bought my copy of that LP around 1962, off a rack at the checkout counter of my local grocery store. That was truly a different era, when classical records had a market share of about 10% versus today's measly 2% or less. I have always found the Amsterdam version a tad rough, while the Vienna's unusual observance of the lengthy exposition repeat in the 1st mvt. is perhaps a little too much of a good thing. The Vienna is more warmly played and, to my mind, it ranks with Weingartner (Opus Kura)and the live 1964 Schuricht/BPO (deleted Originals) as one of the great "straight" Eroicas. I have to confess though that, for me, Furtwangler still reigns supreme in this work (especially his live 1944 account on M&A).

In the Mozart works, the real standout item is the 1956 live #39, which is generally preferable to Kleiber's thin-sounding 1927 Berlin State Opera recording (Koch CD). This 39th is one of my favorites, along with Weingartner (IMG) & Maag (Arts). The 40th is a shade fast & clipped for my taste, but it's nonetheless an excellent rendering. The 4 Deutsche Tanze are very engaging, although the Cologne Radio's playing is rather unpolished here.

Weber's First Symphony receives here its finest recording. It would be nice if Philips could see fit to bring back the somewhat more interesting Symphony #2 under Willem van Otterloo (once on Epic LP).

I still find this brilliant Beethoven 5th from Amsterdam just a trifle hard-boiled (similarly-styled accounts by Weingartner and Schuricht are a little less relentless). Still, the virtuoso playing on display here is nothing short of remarkable - I don't think there's a conductor today who could even come close to this level of exacting execution. But again, I have to admit that Furtwangler remains my exemplar in the 5th (the 1943 wartime reading on M&A and his postwar account on Tahra, both live with the Berlin Phil.).

This magnificent 1950 Beethoven 7th has long been one of my very favorite readings. It shares with Klemperer and Carlos Kleiber the unusual pizzicato (versus arco) ending in the slow mvt. Of the two Pastorals, my allegiance is to the magnificent playing of the Concertgebouw in 1953 versus the sonically-inferior 1948 London Phil. The interpretations are quite similar, including Kleiber's "trademark" zany accelerando just prior to the Storm (which gets a truly fierce & visceral treatment in both versions).

That brings us to a pair of stellar 9ths. The Beethoven seems to be styled after Weingartner's - it's quite direct and straightforward - and, like Weingartner's, there are no repeats in the Scherzo. The highlight here is one of the most beautifully-played Adagios ever recorded. Over-all, though, I gravitate more toward the rhythmic heft of Weingartner (Opus Kura) and the incomparably spiritual readings by Furtwangler. Schubert's 9th, which Schumann called a symphony of "heavenly lengths," is given a fine statement. Here Kleiber is smaller-scale and more chaste than most, but there's no shortage of gemutlich playing. Other personal favorites include the grand rhetoric of Furtwangler (DG), the impish mischief of Clemens Krauss (Teldec), and the stately eloquence of Knappertsbusch on Orfeo (not to mention Schuricht, Mengelberg, Rosbaud, and the bubbly high spirits of Konwitschny). I suppose you could call that a lengthy list of heavenly performances!

Highly recommended.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Erich Kleiber: The Original Master Jan. 12 2005
By Michael B. Richman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
In a year of tributes for conductor Carlos Kleiber, it is only appropriate that Universal celebrate the father as well with this 6CD collection in the "Original Masters" series. Compiling many of the senior Kleiber's greatest recordings for the Decca label from 1949-1955, this box set will be a most welcome addition to the shelves of classical music connoisseurs. Unfortunately, this title is not without its problems. The set focuses heavily on Beethoven (more than two-thirds of the material; 3 full discs and two half discs) including two separate performances each of the "Eroica" and "Pastoral" Symphonies. Additionally one of those two 3rds (1950), and the 5th from 1953 have been previously available (and continue to be) on a single disc release in the "Decca Legends" series. And that's not the only duplicate material featured here as the 1949 performance of Mozart's 40th Symphony with the LSO was recently included in his "Great Conductors of the 20th Century" title (see my review). Finally, why UNI chose to issue this and the recent Schuricht set in clunky plastic jewel cases, instead of the normal slim paperboard box with paper sleeves for the discs, is beyond me. Overall though, "Original Masters: Erich Kleiber" is another first rate historical reissue from Universal, and the performances of the Beethoven's 7th & 9th, and Schubert's 9th, which I had never previously heard, are simply stunning. I can hardly wait for the next batch of Decca OMs next month!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars mostly excellent Sept. 1 2013
By Kirk List - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Five star performances dominate this set, a norm with Kleiber. Cologne and Amsterdam were more positive venues for him in these recordings than Vienna and London. The VPO Beethoven #9 is quite good but cannot compare
sonically to Kleiber's later VPO Figaro or to his #s 3 and 5-7 with the RCOA. I miss the Concertgebouw acoustic and
the great woodwinds but not the US Decca lp sound for the Eroica which now has been cauterized thankfully. The VPO Eroica is a great one that includes the first movement exposition repeat. I prefer the
RCOA Eroica to the Vienna version because it is slightly more intense and contains an even more deeply tragic funeral march. #s 5 and 6 are equally memorable and boast
better sound than the RCOA Eroica (see my reviews of these three). The Beethoven #7 is not as potent sonically as #s 5 and 6. It possesses fairly quick tempi but not as rushed as some (not all) of the partlu fevered Munich seventh of Carlos Kleiber. I think that the relative restraint helps, e.g. in the lyrical slow section of the second movement with the solo clarinet.
The solo wind trio near the end of the first movement is equally lovely and Kleiber generates power minus hysteriain the finale (like Munch/BSO/RCA in my favorite #7.

The earliest performances with LPO are not vintage Kleiber: Mozart #40 and another Pastoral. Poor engineering
and a weaker orchestra hurt. The Cologne Mozart 39 is much stronger, with good sound and great winds-try the second vement. Kleiber enjoyed Cologne and conducted his final concert there (see my review. He also recorded two of his three favorite
operas there*: Fidelio with Birgit Nilsson and Freischutz with Grummer and Streich. The Schubert #9 is both lovely
and powerful, though again I miss the RCOA winds (for which the versions of Krips and Haitink -newly issued-) are
de riguer along with Eugen Jochum's stupendous BRSO version. Both Kleibers adored Weber and the Cologne Symphony #1 has not been matched, I believe. 4.5 stars for the set.

*actually he mentioned (sic) four Fs: Figaro, Fidelio, Freischutz and Vogelhandler
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legendary historic recordings Feb. 22 2008
By Ryan Kouroukis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is an amazing collection of recordings from Erich Kleiber. The Beethoven is truly legendary. The Mozart organic. The Schubert grand!

Erich Kleiber is important to study because he is one of the famous men from "Headquarters" (old Vienna) who knew many famous composers and artists. His style is unique in the history of the grammophone and his conducting technique essential to know and learn from.

- No one has ever let music flow for it's own sake more than Erich Kleiber.
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable Beethoven April 19 2014
By Precession - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
No doubt about five stars here - the Beethoven performances from Vienna and Amsterdam would deserve that on their own - perhaps the greatest Beethoven ever recorded, with dynamics and rhythm classical controlled and allowing the full grandeur of the music to be expressed. The box includes performances of the Eroica with both orchestras - however good the earlier Amsterdam is, the Vienna one is even better, including the very necessary repeat in the first movement and an ever greater spontaneity all through. This was apparently recorded in stereo but there was a delay of several years before the LP was issued and in the meantime Decca apparently lost the stereo tapes, so only the mono has ever appeared. The recording is good mono but if anyone ever discovers the stereo in a cupboard somewhere no doubt it will be issued.

The Cologne and London performances are less special, the London ones originally issued on 78s in the late 40s. Of the Pastorals from Amsterdam and London, no doubt the Amsterdam is to be preferred for its superior orchestral playing, but that it not to say the London performance is not immensely enjoyable, full of spontaneity and life. The London Mozart Symphony 40 starts rather untidily but is a very effective performance, its lean clarity looking forward to modern performances rather than reflecting the sometimes heavyweight Mozart of the 40s. Fritz Reiner recorded an excellent 40th in Chicago in mono a few years later, also a lively performance, but this one is to me slightly preferable - the Chicago is a more virtuoso orchestra than the London one, but also more heavyweight.

The Cologne performances, taken from radio tapes, are not so finished or well recorded. Its good to have a major conductor in the Weber symphony which was not so often recorded in those years and this performance makes a good complement to Otterloo's mono of the other Weber symphony, but from the 50s the slightly later Dixon early stereo versions of both works are to be preferred. The Schubert Ninth here seems to be have been performed on a rare Kleiber off-day - from this era, the versions by Josef Krips, not to mention Toscanini, are to be preferred. The Mozart 39 is enjoyable though not on the level of the London 40th. Nevertheless its good to have the Cologne readings in this immensely desirable box.

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