Friday, April 16, 2021

Otto Klemperer & Haydn

No. 355 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


This week’s new podcast takes us back to a familiar place: Haydn’s London Symphonies. In the past, we assembled a triptych of three “even” London symphonies (nos. 94, 96 and 98) under one conductor and orchestra and today’s triptych completes the “even set” with symphoniesm100, 102 and 104.

We have also trusted one conductor, Otto Klemperer, with these three works but his forces are the “original” and “new” Philharmonia orchestras. Let me share the insights of James Weinman commenting on these performances for Maclean’s a dozen years ago:

Klemperer made [four Haydn symphony LPs] at various times in his career; two of those LPs are among the best things this prolific conductor ever recorded. […] These are the recordings he made in 1964-65, one LP of symphonies # 88 and 104 (Haydn’s last symphony) and another LP of symphonies # 100 and 102 […].

The British critics hated these discs, calling the performances charmless and heavy. […] Klemperer’s performances were among the few of the era that really took the music seriously, and really grasped how much Beethoven borrowed from Haydn: the sudden pauses, the weird shifts in tone within a movement, the complex development of seemingly simple melodies. Most conductors of the time tended to let the strings dominate in this kind of movement, but Klemperer keeps the woodwinds well forward […] and when Haydn writes a brass fanfare in the first movement of 104, you can hear it.

[…] While Klemperer has a reputation as a slow conductor, his tempos are not slow in these symphonies; not as fast as they would be today, and like many conductors he doesn’t seem to think Haydn means it when he marks his minuets (which aren’t really minuets at all) “allegro,” but these are not slow at all.

I think you will love this music too

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