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Syms 3/Grosse Fuge

Ludwig Van Beethoven Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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1. I: Allegro Con Brio
2. II: Marcia Funebre (Adagio Assai)
3. III: Scherzo (Allegro Vivace) & Trio
4. IV: Finale (Allegro Molto - Poco Andante - Presto)
5. Grosse Fuge, Op.133

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Without Hesitation. Jan. 26 2004
Format:Audio CD
This is the most incredible Eroica I have ever heard, and now I won't even think about searching for another recording because this might very well be the best. To be honest, I have sought and sought for a better performance but gave up soon after. If there's one that's supposedly better, please let me know.
There's another Klemperer Eroica out there, somewhere, which I bought, by the way; but I wasn't entirely satisfied with that one, so I purchased this. An electrifying first movement and then follows THE Marcia Funebre. Splendid all the way through and this CD contains also Grosse Fuge.
I recommend this CD strongly. Snatch it up whenever you see it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven Eroica Jan. 8 2005
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
This is the best interpretation of 3rd symp. Eroica of Beethoven. Klemperer and Philarmonia Orchestra at their best.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Klemperer's Greatest Recordings Oct. 20 2000
By "kek5" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Otto Klemperer is generally recognized as one of the great conductors of the 20th century, and nowhere did he shine brighter than in Beethoven. This performance with the Philharmonia ranks as perhaps the best in a great cycle of Beethoven's symphonies. Using his trademark style of unusually slow tempos combined with an unerring control of musical ebb and flow, Klemperer produces a striking sense of grandeur that is completely appropriate for the third symphony. The Philharmonia plays beautifully and the recording, though 1960s analogue, is very good. Every Beethoven lover should have at least one symphony from Klemperer's cycle with the Philharmonia, and given a choice this one would be the one for me (although his versions of the fourth and seventh symphonies are wonderful as well).
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Sept. 16 2001
By Baker Sefton Peeples - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I've heard numerous recordins of this symphony, but I was simply blown away by this one like no other. I can't think of a more grand or elemental performace extant. Neither Klemperer or the Philharmonia orchestra let this grand conception out of their minds. The beginning chords are weighty, not whiplash like many others i've heard, and this truly sets the tone for the rest of the recording. Klemperer was keen on structure and relationships from movement to movement, which helps him in the long first movement, the episodic funeral march (which i dare say is perfectly done and absolutely penetrating), and especially the variations of the last movement. Be prepared to be shattered by the grandeur of this utterly superb recording. The Grosse Fugue from beethoven's op. 130 string quartet is marvelous too, though I'm a bit more partial to the original version of this piece. Nevertheless Klemperer makes it monumental and I entirely respect his choice for doing this with a string orchestra. All in all, this CD ought to be in any collection of Beethoven's symphonies, as well as Klemperer's recordings of the other Beethoven symphonies, which are just as outstanding.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old School, Grandfatherly Approach Nov. 7 2006
By dv_forever - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Klemperer's recordings of Beethoven are justly famous, especially his classic set of Fidelio. When it comes to the symphonies however, I find that Klemperer's methods don't stand up as well as his contemporary Wilhelm Furtwangler. Any person listening to a recording of Furtwangler will hear how different his approach really is. The best candidate for a Furtwangler Eroica is the 1944 wartime version, an inspirational account of this majestic symphony that has never been surpassed. The hallmarks of the great Furtwangler are tempo fluctuations, extreme passion, great weight of sound and a spiritual intensity unparalleled by any subsequent conductor.

Klemperer's performance is strictly objective but dogged by old-school "andante" tactics. Whereas for instance Toscanini's tempos are ferocious, Klemperer's is about giving every note and phrase it's full weight but lacking in Furtwangler's mercurial qualities. If you are used to the Toscanini interpretation, which is what Karajan, Szell and many others have taken up inspired by Toscanini, you will be bored stiff by Klemperer, especially his first movement, which is definitely more andante than allegro and takes nearly 17 without the exposition repeat. The funeral march is much more successful, although once again it's a very dry run-through instead of the sizzling emotions that Furtwangler uncovers. Klemperer's scherzo and finale never really take off, even though they are extremely well played.

Purchasing this Klemperer Legacy CD will also get you the string orchestra transcription of the Grosse Fugue on track 5. It is a titanic performance no doubt, but you'll ultimately stick to the original string quartet version which sounds far more abrasive and modern than a full string orchestra which can smooth out Beethoven's brutal contrasts in this masterpiece. My favorite Grosse Fugue performance is the early 1980's recording by the Lindsay Quartet.

These are classic recordings but you'll definitely want to stick to Karajan and Szell for the energetic frenzy that Klemperer does not provide. As I mentioned before, if you're looking for the true philosophical depth of the Eroica, there is always Furtwangler's amazing wartime reading that remains uniquely penetrating.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine realization of an approach that I find biased and wanting, imposing but generating little excitement March 28 2009
By Discophage - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Coming back to this recording a year and a half later, and this time hearing it on its own rather than in the context of a comparative listening, I can give it a slightly more positive assessment than in the first version of this review. I've expressed in other reviews my decided preference for the "Toscaninian" approach to the Beethoven symphonies, and especially the Eroica, as opposed to the "Furtwänglerian" one (see for instance Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 "Eroica" and Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 "Eroica"). I take these two names as the epitome and symbols of two opposed and nearly irreconcilable understandings of and approaches to the interpretation of Beethoven. In capsule: Toscanini fast, driven, explosive, with biting accents; Furtwängler ample, weighty, grandiose, massive.

I prefer the Toscanini approach (I have the 1949 version, not usually considered his best, but I am entirely happy with it, see my review of Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3) not only because it is closer to Beethoven's tempo indications and, hence, to what can be construed of his intentions (and I am not here even referring to the composer's notoriously fast and highly controversial metronome marks, but simply to the indications of character given to each movement other than the Funeral March: Allegro con brio, Allegro vivace, Allegro molto), but also because I find it much more exciting: "exuberant", "explosive", "joyous" are the words that come to mind when listening to Toscanini (or Scherchen, or Leibowitz), as opposed to Furtwängler's "stately", "massive", "grandiose", "leisurely".

That said, music is a vast world, and as much as I am convinced that the Toscanini approach is truer to the composer's letter and intent, I also believe that realizing the composer's intentions is only one possible goal of a performer but not the only one, that the score offers a vast array of possibilities, and that the composer's word is only one word, but by no means the only one, and sometimes not even the most interesting one. So I am all open to another approach, as long as the performer makes it work.

I was curious to go back to Klemperer. His complete cycle was the one I grew up with, years ago, before leaving aside Beethoven and his symphonies for another number of years. I hadn't heard those recordings since.

I can't say that I found his Eroica entirely effective and convincing, but I did think that it is overall a good representation of that very specific approach, and at times an effective one as well. Tempos are uniformly ample and leisurely, and Klemperer goes for mass and power rather than drive and ebullience. In every movement except the Funeral March Klemperer even "out-Furtwänglerizes" Furtwängler by adopting slower still tempos. And even in the Funeral March it is only in the concluding section, starting at 10:18, with the return of the theme on violins after the "Minore" section, that his slightly faster tempo makes him ultimately faster than "Furt".

Within that approach, where Klemperer strikes over Furtwängler is on two counts: infinitely better sonics, with a great stereo separation between first and second violins which convinces me that this is how it should be played and recorded, allowing for all the fugal interplay between them to come out in all clarity; and more snappy and energetic accents (although Klemp' decidedly leaves space for more on that account). I will also count Klemperer's more stable tempos as an asset, over Furtwängler's more instinctive (apparently) and, to me, less coherent style of conducting.

Still, Klemperer's interpretation generates, at least with me, little excitement, at least when I listen immediately after Toscanini. Here are the words I jotted down during his first movement (taken without repeat, which I find breaks the movement's structural integrity - and so did Beethoven apparently, as he kept the repeat bar after having considered doing away with it - and having performed it a number of times without it - in view of the movement's unusual length - but then, Toscanini didn't take the repeat either): "stately", "grandiose", "ample", leisurely" and even "elegant" and "balletic" (in the finale). But not "energetic", "dynamic", "exciting", "urgent", "great drive". Granted, when heard independently rather that in immediate proximity with Toscanini, the sheer piling of dynamic masses in the first movement does impress, thanks also to the great 1959 sonics. There is also a very specific lilt, a gentle swing born from the very deliberate 3/4 movement. The Funeral March has great weight and power, sounding, like Furtwängler's, less like a march than like a funeral lament, with the pathos of a Bach organ chorale arranged by Stokowski (and it works); again the stereo separation of the violins works wonders, and when the horn solo erupts at 9:11, it is grandiose. But it has its quirks, too. At 5:28 I wondered, where the hell were the brass. Listen to that passage, near the beginning of the "Maggiore" section, where the woodwinds and brass chords are written ff and sf, with Toscanini (at 4:41): he has his brass play a dry staccato which makes them ring with the violence of cannon shots (whether you find that violence appropriate is another matter - I do). With Klemp', you hear only the woodwinds: oboes and flutes. In fact, I am convinced that he cut the brass here, since you do hear them at the return of those chords a little further at 6:42. I suppose he wanted to create a contrast of color between both utterances of those explosive chords. But I miss Toscanini's violence.

No bubbles with Klemperer's unhurried scherzo - a leisurely after-lunch trot rather than the breathless race its "allegro vivace" indication might seem to indicate. Heard on its own its bonhomie and decibel power do have their appeal, although, again, it doesn't come near the excitement of the faster approaches (Toscanini, Scherchen, Munch, Szell to mention only some of the oldies). As for the finale, I do have a soft tooth for its very moderate tempo and it does elicit a sense of imposing grandeur, but it also instills the nagging impression that it too, like the scherzo, could have been used as the music for the ballet of the hippos in Fantasia. Mind you, those hippos are very elegant and full of grace - for hippos, that is. The coda is powerful but plods.

Ultimately, I'll keep this version in my collection, as a fine realization of an approach which I find biased and wanting, and I would certainly recommend it over Furtwängler's recording. But for these very reasons I'd strongly warn against having it as one's only recording, especially to a newcomer to the Eroica. It should be approached as only a complement to at least another, more dynamic version. One of my favorite Eroica so far, other than Toscanini's, is Leibowitz', Symphonies No. 1 & 3. I love Scherchen, but he's a firebrand radical, on the opposite pole from Klemperer: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6.

But note that, as long as you want to settle for the Klemperer approach, there is better: the 1967 recording by Klemperer's interpretive clone, Sir John Barbirolli, initially recorded for HMV and reissued by Dutton: Symphony 3 / Elizabethean Suite. Barbirolli has the same kind of deliberation and massiveness in the outer movements, but an added bite which gives it even more power without ponderousness, his Funeral March is even slower - the slowest I've ever encountered, in fact - and the effect is impressive, and his scherzo is brisk like Toscanini's.

I have this Klemperer Eroica on its previous CD release, on EMI Studio, from 1990 (Beethoven: Symphonie No. 3 "Eroica"; Große Fuge), so obviously I can't comment on whichever sonic improvements this new remastering (if indeed it is one, which I am not sure) has induced. The 1990 sonics were already great, with a measure of tape hiss that was perceptible mainly in the softer passages of the funeral march.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The better of Klemperer's two Eroicas June 17 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Buyers could be fooled, at a casual glance, by the Klemperer Eroica that EMI has put in its Great Recordings of the Century--it's his first, mono rendition from 1955. Here, the stereo remake from t1959 is superior in all respects. The sonics give us a spacious, comfortable soundstage that perfectly suits Klemperer's broad tempos. There's also a lot more impact and detail. That's important becasue Klemperer's stance is staid and lacking in drama. For example, his opening movement is hardly Beethoven's Allegro con brio--it's more a robust Andante.

As an interpretation, the main difference in the remake is that Klemperer has given up his too-fast tempo for the Funeral March--at 17 min. he is now directly comparable to Karajan's 1963 perforamnce. Klemperer uses the extra time to wonderful effect, building to a sweeping and solemn climax with total naturalness--this movement stands out as a classic. Personally, I can't say the same for the other three movements. I expect more dramatic contrast than is provided here, but on his own terms, which was the only way Klemperer would have it, this is the Eroica to get.
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