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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

Murray Khouri explores the recorded legacy of conductor Otto Klemperer

Murray Khouri:

“How well do I remember my first Klemperer concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall. It was May 1960 and the programme was all Mozart.  The entrance to the platform was covered by a grey curtain and once the orchestra’s leader was in place and tuning completed, a long silence descended in the hall when suddenly the curtain was pulled back revealing a giant of a man clutching a walking stick. He was helped up the stairs to the platform to be greeted by a standing ovation.

Shuffling through the orchestra he tossed his stick to the principal second violinist who neatly caught it, laying it down on the floor whilst Klemperer, with a curt nod to the audience, plonked himself into a chair on the podium. The Philharmonia Orchestra was then in peak condition; world famous through its many recordings.  I heard details that I never knew existed, and Klemperer seemed to do so little once he’d launched the opening down-beat…his restraint was unnerving.”


Bruckner Symphony No Otto KlempererOTTO KLEMPERER
b. 1885 in Breslau, Germany
d. Zürich, Switzerland 1973

When Klemperer died in 1973, it was at end of a life and career in music lasting 65 years.  His early years were spent honing his craft in opera houses throughout the german provinces.  With ascendency of the Nazi Party, Klemperer and his wife fled their home with money baked in a cake, and eventually found themselves in Los Angeles where for a little while he directed the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  But Klemperer’s life was marked with a series of health problems, accidents, and grappling with manic depression.  But in 1951 he returned to Europe and London, where Columbia Records supremo, Walter Legge, launched his career conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the result is an incredible array of recordings from Mozart to Mahler with a distinctive voice that stood for decades as EMI’s antithesis to DG’s Herbert von Karajan.

Music Details

1) WAGNER: Lohengrin
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDM 7 63617)
2) MOZART:  Symphony 39
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDM 7 63276)
3) MOZART:  Symphony No 39
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDM 7 63275)
4) MAHLER:  Symphony No 2
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDM 7 69662)
5) MOZART: Symphony No 41, Jupiter
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDM 7 63276)
6) BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 7
Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Otto Klemperer
(Quadromania 22140 444/B)
7) MOZART: Symphony No 41, Jupiter
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CMS 63276)
8)  BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 3, Eroica
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI 7 63855)
9) BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 3, Eroica
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI 7 63855)
10) BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 7
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDM 7 63868)
11) BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 9
Philharmonia Orch and Chorus/Otto Klemperer
(Testament SBT 1177)
12) BEETHOVEN: Symphony No 6, Pastoral
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDC 7 47188)
13) BRAHMS: Symphony No 2
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI 7 69650)
14) BRUCKNER: Symphony No 4
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI 7 69127)
15)  WAGNER: Meistersingers Overture
Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI CDC 747255)
16) BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis
New Philharmonia Orch/Otto Klemperer
(EMI 7 695 538)