Day 63: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (Klemperer)

First of all, the astute ones among you may notice that today’s Day is #63.

Now, since this web site is titled 63 More Days With Bruckner And Me, you’re probably thinking, “This is the end, right? Day 63! Hurrah! You made it!”

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

I missed counting by one day.

Math has never been my strong suite.

Plus, I’m not too bright.

So, I have one more day, and one more conductor, after this: Simone Young.

I’ll probably just call tomorrow’s post Day 63 + 1 or Day 63 Part Two or Day 63 Bonus. Or maybe just throw all caution and decor to the wind and call it Day 64.

I don’t know yet. I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.

This morning, I am listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (WAB 109), interpreted by German-born conductor and composer Otto Klemperer (1885-1973).

Prior to this Bruckner project, I had never heard of Otto Klemperer – although I had heard of his son, actor Werner Klemperer, most famous for his portrayal of Col. Klink, Kommandant of Stalag 13 in the 1960s TV series Hogan’s Heroes.

The first time I heard Otto Klemperer was on Day 23, Symphony No. 4.

Then again on Day 31, Symphony No. 5.

Then again on Day 39, Symphony No. 6.

Then again on Day 47, Symphony No. 7.

Then again, most recently, on Day 55, Symphony No. 8.

On at least the first two of those days, I posted background information on Klemperer and his orchestra. If you want to know more about the famed German Maestro, let your mouse do the clicking over to the first couple of days.

Here are the objective aspects of today’s recording:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor (WAB 109), composed 1887–1896
Otto Klemperer conducts
Klemperer used the “1884, ed. Nowak,” according to the liner notes
New Philharmonia Orchestra plays
The symphony clocks in at 65:18
This was recorded in Kingsway Hall, London, England, on November 6-7 & 18-21 in 1970 (talk about cobbling together a performance!)
Klemperer was 85 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 72 when I died before completing it
This recording was released on the Warner Classics label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. He would have done so this time, as well, but he died before completing the Finale. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 9 in D Minor), from this particular conductor (Klemperer) and this particular orchestra (New Philharmonia Orchestra) is as follows:

I. Feierlich, misterioso………………………………………………………………………….26:43
II. Scherzo. Bewegt, lebhaft; Trio. Schnell………………………………………………………………………………………………….11:23
III. Adagio. Langsam, feierlich…………………………………………………………………………………………………27:12
IV. Finale……………………………………………………………………………………………….00:00

Total Time: 65:18

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects of today’s recording:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4 (a little tape hiss and ambient noises)
Overall musicianship: 5
CD liner notes: 2 (typically thin Warner Classics fare – very short essays about Klemper and Bruckner)
How does this make me feel: 4

Eighty-five? Once again, Klemperer was 85 when he conducted this performance. That may make him one of the oldest conductors to which I’ve listened in the last seven months. That, in itself, is amazing. In this case, I was alive when Otto Klemperer was, just as he was alive when Bruckner was. (That means absolutely nothing of significance. I just like to put thing in context.)

Not only that, but Maestro Klemperer lived just three years after this performance. (He died in 1973.)

Unlike Klemperer’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Eighth, I find this performance to be quite extraordinary.

From the get-go, Klemperer’s Misterioso is grand, lush, sweeping, and engaging. It’s truly beautiful music. I hung on every note to the end.

Then, the delightfully playful pizzicato that begins the Scherzo (just before the staccato da-da-da-da-da-da-da) sets the stage for one of my all-time favorite Scherzos – which the New Philharmonia Orchestra and Otto Klemperer play to perfection.

The Adagio is almost heartbreakingly gorgeous…tugging at my heartstrings right through to the sublime last minute, which is music so damn beautiful that it chokes me up ever time. Truly, Bruckner’s prayers were answered. This was music inspired by God.

I don’t know how Warner Classics took these Klemperer recordings that date back to 1960 and made them sound so good. Today’s performance was from 1970. I was 10 years old at the time. I wish I had held up as well as these recordings over the past 47 years.

All in all, if I wanted to introduce a newbie to Bruckner’s Ninth, I would not hesitate to refer him/her to this one from Otto Klemperer.

“Huzzah!”

By the way, I’m not sure to which edition the liner notes refer. There is no “1884, ed. Nowak” to my knowledge. The Nowak edition, according to its entry on Wikipedia, is:

Nowak edition (1951)
This is a corrected reprint of the Orel edition of 1932.

The Orel edition, according to its entry on Wikipedia is:

Orel edition (1932)
This was the first edition that attempted to reproduce what Bruckner actually wrote. This version was first performed in 1932 by Siegmund von Hausegger with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. In the concert, the symphony was performed twice, first in Löwe’s edition and then in the Orel version. It includes only the first three complete movements.

On top of that, this symphony wasn’t even started until 1887. So how could there be anything about it that’s “1884”?

My guess is there’s a typo in the liner notes. Or else Klemperer pulled off something truly amazing – which accounts for his ethereal, magical interpretation: he went back in time, got Bruckner’s original thoughts (prior the composing of the symphony) and then just abided by them in 1970 when he performed it with the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

4 Comments

  1. Klemperer85

    Just a word about “cobbling together”. I was kind of brought up with Klemperer, as my father had seen the man playing live – he never forgot that, and told me that at least the 2-3 live concerts he had seen were so hauntingly wonderful that no studio recording could be half as good.
    So – read this with a grain of salt – I do love Klemperer’s musicianship and might not exactly be the most neutral listener here^^.

    Klemp – unlike newer conductors – always wanted to record the whole work in one. EMI disagreed. But he never succumbed to this Glenn-Gould-like 1200 snippets for a movement-scenario, like later conductors did. He played whole movements, basta (and did not give a damn about background noise if he liked the movement.)

    So – the producers – who were first rate, for example Suvi Ray Grubb and before him Walter Legge and Peter Andry – used those whole movements they had. Klemperer would have preferred “from start to finish”. Klemp was famous for getting up too early after the last bar – or to create background noise sitting in his chair in old age. It was nothing to him – music mattered.

    Thanks for your review! I really agree, the “9” is wonderful, and Klemperer, who fought a lot of illnesses and setbacks in his day, could well achive such superb results even in his latest recordings.
    He introduced – in his usual stubborn ways^^ – Bruckner to the UK, by the way. As early as – if I remember right – 1929, 32 and so forth – he conducted Bruckner 7 or 8 – critics dismissed it, using rather hateful speech. But some – later – came to Klemp, as he was working in England, and told him how right it was to just go on and on with Bruckner.

    Klemperer’s Bruckner 8 in the 1970 recording is usually seen as his weakest, and that is a pity, because he conducted the symphony so great through decades. The first recording of the Adagio dates from 1928… A friend recommended Giulini’s 8 to me, and as I just found your blog – I have no clue if you listened to that one too (with the Vienna Philharmonic). I do like the slow movement and the last very much, but many I know don’t like his late Bruckner 8, and he even thought it wise to leave notes out in the last movement^^. Surely it was not.

    All the very best to you! I’ll surely read the other entries about Bruckner.

    • Thank you very much for your comment. It was a delight to read, and I learned a few things reading it.

      One of the reasons why I like taking on these projects of mine is that I learn about great conductors, orchestras, musicians, movements, passages, concert halls, time periods, etc.

      Klemperer was one of the greats, no doubt about it. He, Furtwangler, Jochum and others were brilliant. They inspired many over the years, and their performances are revered to this day.

      Thanks again for commenting. I would have approved it and replied to it sooner. But my wife and I are in the middle of a move to a new home. We’ve been packing, sorting, donating, trashing, and discovering for a month now. We’re down to the last couple of days. But I wanted to get your comment online today before I go back to the move.

      I hope to read more of your comments.

    • The Klemperer recording was my introduction to the 9th such his recordings of 4th and 6th were my introductions to those respective symphonies. So I am partial to Klemperer. Nevertheless, if one desires to have a recording of 8th symphony by Klemperer, one should turn to the Kölner radio recording. That is very swift and cogent, and is available in a 10 cd Membran box that contains all the Beethoven symphonies (mostly live Philharmonia, good stereo) and three Bruckners: 4th, 7th and 8th. All of them are worthy listening and complement one’s picture of Klemperer if one is familiar only with the Philharmonia studio recordings.

      • Thank you for your comment, Michael. I appreciate it.

        Also, I appreciate the recommendation to explore more of Klemperer recordings. I’d buy it right this second – except it appears to be scarce. I found one from an Amazon Marketplace seller in Japan. Other than that, I don’t see that box set as being available in the States. But I’ll keep looking.

        I’ve listened to a lot of Bruckner, over 200 day’s worth by my count. I believe I am partial to the classic conductors like Klemperer. Frankly, it thrills me to hear a recording from the 1930s or ’40s or ’50s from one of these giants. It’s like I’m there, in that historic moment.

        Again, thank you for your comment and your suggestion.

        Now, I’ll let my fingers do the Googling in my search to find more Klemperer…

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