Paul Kletzki: Great Conductors of the 20th Century (CD review)

Paul Kletzki, various orchestras. EMI 7243 5 75468 2 9 (2-CD set).

The bigger studios continue to mine their vaults for old material in new packaging, sometimes becoming redundant, sometimes finding gold. In the case of EMI's latest issue of remasterings, titled "Great Conductors of the 20th Century," they have provided a service in offering us much material never before available on CD.

Each release is a mid-priced two-disc set, and there are thirteen releases in EMI's first batch. They cover Sir Adrian Boult, Albert Coates, Carlo Maria Giulini, Erich Kleiber, Paul Kletzki, Otto Klemperer, Pierre Monteux, Charles Munch, Leopold Stokowski, Vaclav Talich, Eugene Ormandy, Carl Schuricht, and Bruno Walter. I chose to review Paul Kletzki because I think he's one of the great overlooked conductors of the last century, comparatively few of his recordings presently available on CD.

Each of these sets includes recordings the conductors made throughout their lives, irrespective of whether they are in mono or stereo. Thus, each set usually contains a mixture of both. In the case of the Kletzki discs, three of the items are in mono and five are in stereo. Actually, none of the items are marked mono or stereo, but the recording dates are given and one's ears can do the rest. One live recording from 1965 turned out to be in monaural.

Paul Kletzki
Of the Kletzki selections, I enjoyed the Tchaikovsky most of all, the Fifth Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1967 and the Capriccio italien with the Philharmonia Orchestra from 1958. EMI released both of them in stereo and both are decently recorded, although perhaps a bit thin and scrawny by today's standards. In some parts, the Capriccio can be downright spectacular in vividness and impact, while slightly scratchy in others; the interpretations are heartfelt in the case of the Symphony and robust and thrusting in the case of the Capriccio.

The thing with Kletzki, as with all of the great conductors listed above, is that he wasn't afraid to be himself and impose at least some of his own will on the music, as opposed to so many of today's conductors who all tend to sound alike. Kletzki had a great ear for the rhythms of a piece, a musician's ear, and you can feel the lyrical and dance-like qualities he brings out in many of the works, as well as the driving vigor of others.

Among the further delights in the set are Berlioz's Bevenuto Cellini overture; Schubert's Rosamunde Entr'acte No. 5; Dvorak's Slavonic Dances in D major, C minor, and C major; Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage overture; Brahms's Symphony No. 4; and Wagner's Traume No. 5. In addition to the orchestras mentioned, the groups employed include the Royal Philharmonic, the French Radio National Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Czech Philharmonic.

So, there's quite a variety of music here, and all of it worthwhile.

JJP

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa