Maestro to musicians: You make me want to kill myself

Just in case you haven’t seen this iconic video of Carlos Kleiber in action.

There has never been a conductor like him.


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  • I’m pretty sure I’ve never laughed out loud at a conductor before this video. How precious! Kleiber was definitely one of a kind.

  • Kurt Moll was Ochs, I think. Nice story of when he met Gabriel Bacquier. The great German bass introduces himself, ‘Kurt Moll’. Bacquier replies ‘Long et dur’.

  • Carlos Kleiber and his myth… Big subject! Few month ago I saw the documentary ‘Carlos Kleiber – I am lost to the world ‘ :fascinating and intriguing. Fortunatly he gave us his two Beethoven performances at Amsterdam and his two new year concerts. It’s on Youtube. Funny for a man who did so few concerts….

      • I was at the ROH for that. Domingo, Ricciarelli, Diaz, Kleiber. Pretty good, it has to be said. I think he also conducted Bohème there, too.

        • During all his career Kleiber did a very small number of operas and classical concerts. There’s a community of fans in Germany who made a list of it. There’s some countries like France where he never came cancelling concerts. The actual minister of Economy of France Bruno Le Maire wrote a book about him

      • Also a Boheme revival at the ROH. He had an unprecedented 3 hour stage rehearsal with orchestra for each Act – and you could really notice the difference it made!

      • I saw both too as well as his Bayreuth Tristan in 1976 (I didn’t realise at the time who I was hearing!). I stood through the Otello having queued for a ticket on my way to college that morning! The LSO concert was far from a disaster – the Schubert 3 was simply wonderful, despite one controversial review, as a result of which, Kleiber forbade the broadcast, had the tapes destroyed and never gave another concert in the UK. Oh, for a live stream back then!

    • At Covent Garden historic performances of Der Rosencavalier (1974); Elektra (with Birgit Nilsson 1977); La Boheme (1979); Otello (Domingo/ Price 1980) and new production of Otello 1987 with Doingo and Ricciarelli)

      • Yes. To which one should add four more performances of the new (E. Moshinsky) production of Otello in January 1990, three of them with Domingo, the last with Jeffrey Lawton.

  • I’ve watched countless times and never tire. He really was the most graceful conductor with those long sinuous arms. Just imagine, say, Andrew Davis thrashing around – all elbows and goofball faces. He gets not bad results but is horrible to watch. But CK I could watch all day

  • ‘Never been a conductor like him”: antics and personality aside, musically there are unmistakable similarities between Carlos Kleiber and his father Erich.

  • I know and admire Kleiber a lot but perhaps this explains why he was mostly a guest conductor. I’m not sure if this kind of performance by him encouraged any of the musicians to perform better. Perfectionism is good but has its limits.

    Perhaps the old fashhioned ripping and shredding of musicians routinely performed by the likes of Fritz Reiner and George Szell would have been better and more productive. Abbado, meanwhile, would have said nothing but would have had a word with the manager and the offendors would not have performed under him any more. That’s another way of dealing with it.

    • It’s worth remembering that CK, even at the height of his fame and powers, was still given a hard time by some musicians who didn’t appreciate his way of working. Not everyone was constantly in awe of him as they seem to be now, post mortem.

      • I’d prefer to just get on with it, speak to the singer afterwards and not go behind his/her back. Abbado’s style seems a bit cowardly and dishonest to me.

      • Well, Tamino, yes, I do. It was not humiliating to the musicians, like this is. And it was more effective. Abbado wa at least Kleiber’s equal.

    • “perhaps this explains why he was mostly a guest conductor”

      He was offered many positions (including the Berlin Phil), but never wanted to do them. He was a guest conductor through choice.

  • Is he really complaining here or is he also just commenting on the story and having a bit of fun with ochs and the chorus? He seems to be enjoying himself too. To all the Kleiber experts out there!

  • Did you ever hear Josef Hassid? He left left a tiny recorded legacy so I’d recommend not basing your opinion on that! Any what’s his being a Jew got to do with anything?

  • I went a few days ago to Der Rosenkavalier at the Met; the most mediocre production I have ever seen. Flaccid conducting by Simon Rattle, really bad Octavian (Kozena, of course) Boring and bad Marschallin (Nylund making her debut) and not rescued by the wonderful singing of Groissboeck. The next evening I listened to the Kleiber Youtube from 1994 (I had attended his performances at the Met. Boy, what a difference !

    • I listened live to that performance on Radio 3. It was accompanied by glowing, gushing comments from the commentators, (eg.Mary Jo Heath) as is now the fashion on the BBC.
      You can never get an objective review of any performance good or bad on the BBC, it is always superlatives, and at the end,- standing ovations.

      It’s become “standing ovationism”, now introduced to the dreaded BBC Proms.

      Quite apart from the fairly poor sound engineering (CG is invariably better), I can’t help feeling you may be right, but during one of the interval interviews Rattle DID confess his immense admiration for Carlos Kleiber especially in his “quote” youtube version he knew very well.

      That would have been unavailable to people like you present on that night, but I recorded it all.
      ’nuff said?

    • Easiest just to say I disagree on every point on your MET review (except for the wonderful Groissboeck), and Golda Schultz was an exquisite Sophie. But I do love Kleiber.

  • s/he’s likely a troll … of course we’re up-voting your comment anyway, because it’s worth it to do so.

  • Are you crazy?? There are still people alive today who remember how Hassid played.

    They said of Hassid, there will be a Heifetz every 100years.. a Joseph Hassid every 200.
    Flesch begged him to come back, after his breakdown.
    Are you aware there are members of Hassid’s closer family alive today.

    Can you imagine what they are thinking when they read such stuff?
    They must think they’ve been carted back to 1933!

    • I think it was the pit transmission to the stars in their dressing rooms, so that they new when to appear on-stage.

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