Another discovered Carlos Kleiber video

This one, found in Japan, is Beethoven’s 7th symphony, one of his signature pieces.


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    • Er… no. Those gestures are actually pretty fluid and spontaneous. Compare his DVD of the same work with the Concertgebouw a few years earlier and you’ll see that it looks very different in lots of places.

      Plus you can ask any player who played under Kleiber (especially opera) and they will tell you that it was different *every* time. Which is one reason why his performances kept everyone on the edges of their seats.

      Sure, some gestures get reused as they generate a particular effect; but to suggest that Kleiber approached conducting in a pre-programmed way simply isn’t the case.

      There are also the results to consider – this is just about as good (and faithful to the score) performance of Beethoven 7 as you could hope to hear in this world. So I’d say he’s very much conducting the music.

      • This is an amazing performance, but faithful to the score, I don’t think so. Most of the repeats are not observed. The woodwinds and brass are doubled, meaning, for example, four flutes instead of the two.

        As far as Kleiber’s gestures, very much like Bernstein, they reflect what he wants the music to look like as well as how it sounds. One may not agree with all of his choices, but the raw energy produced is quite stunning.

          • Of the many adjectives you could use of that VPO recording, I am not sure ‘aleatory’ – random – is one of them! It’s about as rigorous and logical a performance (including repeats…) as one could imagine, to the point that some critics moaned that it didn’t dance enough (!).

        • Doubling the WWs (if not the brass) would have been standard practice around Beethoven’s time with the number of strings employed in these videos.

          But I agree about the repeats. I seem to remember calculating once that taking ALL the repeats as well as Beethoven’s tempo markings in the 7th would make it rival in duration an Eroica performed under the same conditions.

        • Point taken – but you can give an otherwise very faithful performance shorn of repeats or with wind/brass doubled (now *different* parts added would be something else altogether). That’s surely a question of balance rather than fidelity to the score; don’t think CK ever conducted a chamber orchestra but if he did, I’d assume he wouldn’t have done this. Always wondered why CK didn’t do the repeats in concert but kept them in the famous VPO recording.

          I particularly like that the 6/8 is correct all the way through the first movement; plus countless other points that so many conductors miss (disclosure: I’ve conducted this quite a few times myself so have a mental checklist!). The clarity of the sound (extra brass/wind or not) is remarkable.

          One think I’ve never quite been able to square watching Kleiber is how such relaxed movements (on the whole) generate such spectacular tension. There is always whipcrack ensemble, very often at high speed, yet he always looks (here at least) at ease.

          To be honest I thought I might never hear a performance that matched this; BPO and Kirill Petrenko at the Proms the other year, happily, proved me wrong.

          • Yep, you’re dead right about that Petrenko Prom. Quite extraordinary playing at very much the same tempi as Kleiber in the finale

        • But if we are faithful to original intent, would that intent include slavish adherence to the score? There is little compelling evidence of such literalism prior to the early 20th Century.

        • The orchestra is too big for Beethoven anyway, IMO. I prefer leaner forces for Beethoven, but I absolutely loved Kleiber’s intensity and high-octane readings. Great to see him again!!

  • This performance and the Beethoven 4 in the earlier post are probably unique in Kleiber’s recorded visual legacy: except for a couple of black/white rehearsals, these are the only videos that concentrate — almost obsessively — on the conductor. For that I am thankful. In 45 years of concertgoing the most visually mesmerizing conductor I have seen in person was Carlos Kleiber (Brahms 2). These two videos bring back much of the excitement I remember from that night with the CSO.

  • All I have to say is, you never hear an oboe like THAT anymore! Last time I heard that German style of playing must have been back in the late 1970s in Germany. Non-oboists, please don’t ask me to explain and please don’t criticize as though you remotely know something about oboe playing.

  • Fantastic how he gets them NOT to enter all at once… All together is one thing, ragged ensemble is another but this is special.

  • For what it’s worth the only Beethoven symphony for which we have the composer’s own doubling indications is the 4th! And if you are going to double the winds in Beethoven 4 why ever not in no. 7? And we know the winds were doubled in the first performance of Beethoven 9…

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