on September 14, 2001
Klemperer wanted this performance of beethoven 9 to be the crowning achievement in his beethoven cycle in london in 1957, in which he made recordings in the studio right after these concerts. He wanted the best choral forces possible, so he asked Walter Legge, his record producer to recruit people...he did an amazing job...he hired Wilhelm Pitz, the greatest choral director in europe at that time as well as choral director at Bayreuth, and was amazed at the results for an amateur group. After the wonderful choral performance, klemperer was very satisfied with what he got: "I was very proud of you," was what he said, according to the CD booklet, and that coming from a man who was hardly complimentary.
As for the rest of the performance, be prepared for one of the greatest Beethoven 9 ever. The first movement is highly powerful, even acopalyptic. The second movement is quite deliberate compared to most, and it does seem to go on forever (klmep even takes the long second repeat!) but it is such a joy to hear such incredibly powerful and beautiful music for such extended periods of time. He's not afraid to take his time and allow the listener to bathe in the wonderful halo of sound. Klempere also makes the crescendos and forte buildups incredibly suspenseful. The third movement is as flowing as his previous two movements are powerful. It's easy to get lost in the movement, but the form is made so clear here and allows the listener to see the genius of beethoven embellish each section as it repeats. The playing here is transparent so that the counterpoint comes through, something klemperer does well, i find. Perhaps this is what makes his mahler so successful, due to the dense scoring.
Now, the last movement, incredibly dense. Klemperer's rendering is sparkling, especially the almost cliché ode to joy theme, which sings beautifully. His soloists are incredible (much better than on his studio recording, made a week later). Hans Hotter, the wotan of the 50s makes his entrance monumental, truly groundbreaking. The chorus, which comes in after, is a joy to hear...indeed, the philharmonia orchestra chorus reigned supreme in europe, next to bayreuth for quite some time. Diction is incredible, as well as musicality, which comes from the director, as well as klemperer, who i'm sure rehearsed them as well as pitz. Aase-Nordmo-Lovberg is not my favorite soprano, but she sings well here and has a beautiful high B at the end of her solo. The final pages are thrilling and are not taken at light speed, which makes the ending even more explosive. Explosive is the right word to describe the audience's ovation at the end, not a whit to strong for the situation.
All in all, this is one fabulous recording that demands a place in any worthwhile collection. Klemperer's conducting is fabulous as well as the orchestra, chorus, and soloists. His studio recording, mentioned above is also good, though slightly slower, but not lacking in concentration by any means. The studio one is cheaper by a few dollars, but if you had to take one to a desert island, this is the one.