To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Otto Klemperer's death, EMI Classics pays tribute to the incomparable conductor with the release of an extensive edition of 11 luxurious yet affordably-priced boxsets. Two new sets devoted to operas by Mozart, Wagner and Strauss are available this March.
This 11-CD collection showcases four of Mozart's most celebrated operas, Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte, with the inimitable Otto Klemperer at the helm. Featuring a host of star performers, including Lucia Popp as Despina, Elisabeth Söderström as Countess Almaviva and Nicolai Gedda as Tamino, these classic recordings demonstrate Klemperer's supreme understanding of Mozart's operas.
It was one of the bonuses of Klemperer's Indian Summer in the recording studio that he was able to record all three Mozart/Da Ponte operas, as well as Die Zauberflöte, a work for which he had a particularly deep affection. Die Zauberflöte was, he believed, a 'perfect' composition, albeit an inexhaustible one which no single production could ever hope to encompass. Sadly productions which he conducted in Berlin in 1929, Milan in 1950 and London in 1962 were all unsatisfactory in one way or another. Perhaps, in the end, it required what André Malraux called the 'musée imaginaire' of the gramophone to realize Klemperer's dream of this 'perfect' work.
Klemperer's 1964 recording of Die Zauberflöte came close to an ideal, despite the abridgements he imposed. For the recording, Klemperer was working with a hand-picked cast including Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, and Marga Höffgen which Producer Walter Legge confidently declared to be 'as perfect as the world s resource could yield'. The set was, and remains, a glorious achievement and set the stage for Klemperer to continue to record the three Da Ponte operas. The first was Don Giovanni, an opera with which the demonically driven Klemperer had been closely associated throughout his career. EMI continued to provide stellar casts for their Mozart recordings, none more so than that for Così fan tutte, a project which brought Klemperer's career as a Mozart conductor full circle. The concert performance of Così fan tutte which he conducted in London on February 21, 1971 was to be his final operatic offering: a fitting end to a journey that had begun in a different age, and a very different world over half a century earlier.