Same piece, different conductor

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Belle
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Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:59 pm

I'm presenting my program on Great Conductors: Carlos Kleiber this coming Thursday. At the eleventh hour I'm thinking more about it in anticipation of questions as this year we have 53 enrolments in our music appreciation course; some of them are practicing musicians. Mainly I'll focus on 'the cult of the conductor' and the extent to which the individual personality provides not only a drawcard for audiences but how the conductor's individual style shapes the music. I'm drilling down with this movement from Beethoven Symphony 7 for you all to provide some input thus: what does the conductor's style and aesthetic tell us about the interpretation by each orchestra?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6yp9XJfDK0
Bernstein, WPO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKOpdt9PYXU
Thielemann, WPO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sw97NzvvsE
Kleiber, Concertgebouw (notice him at 10'15" approx.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDpNEq_Mkmc
Reiner, CSO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtI_MNQw4co
von Karajan, BPO

Holden Fourth
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Holden Fourth » Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:27 pm

Comparing Reiner with all of the others it is interesting to see how Reiner uses just the tip of his baton to control the orchestra (note that it is longer than a normal baton). With this he manages to keep both a very precise tempo and also alter that tempo at will. I always wondered how he managed the amazingly gradual tempo increase after the introduction in the 'Barber of Seville' overture and watching this clip I now know how he achieved it.

You should also look at a clip of Furtwangler conducting anything. How the hell the orchestra followed him and kept the ensemble together beats the hell out of me. He's all over the place yet he also managed some amazingly effective changes in tempo.

John F
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:26 pm

If you can get hold of Antal Dorati's memoirs, he has some direct and refreshing things to say about the so-called cult of the conductor. He doesn't buy it. Recognizing that of all the people on the concert platform, the conductor is the one who never makes a sound, he says the conductor's proper role - besides traffic management, keeping the players together - is to motivate the players to play as well as they possibly can. In the old days of the tyrant conductor, this was often done by instilling fear, but that approach is obsolete. (For one thing, the musicians' union contract with the orchestra's management prohibits it.) Dorati says one of the most satisfying things he heard from a member of the National Symphony Orchestra, not directly but as reported to him, was that the player said he was ashamed that he had not previously played as well as he was now. (No false modesty there.) Dorati himself says he got his results essentially through his professionalism: knowing the music through and through, rehearsing efficiently, praising but not scolding, nothing revolutionary there. What he doesn't talk about, because maybe he didn't have it, is the special something extra, call it chemistry or personality (the Germans call it Ausstrahlung), which can motivate the players to play better than they can.

What about interpretation, the major and minor and tiny differences between performances of the same piece? Dorati doesn't mention it, but of course we who listen are very much aware of it. Your examples of the Beethoven 7th are quite similar in style, the modern style of which Toscanini was the earliest influential practitioner. But of course there have been other styles, notably the post-Wagnerian Romantic style associated with the likes of Furtwängler, Mengelberg, and others. Mahler wrote this style of interpretation into his music, with its many tempo changes and unconventional balances, but he and like-minded conductors applied it to all the music they conducted, from Bach to then-new music.

In this recording conducted by Richard Strauss, a highly esteemed conductor in his day, the first movement introduction is barely 30 seconds old when he accelerates to a perceptibly faster tempo, the first of many tempo changes in the introduction. Fritz Reiner was an admiring colleague of Strauss during the years in Dresden, but he was very much school of Toscanini and you won't hear anything like this from him.



These are fairly subtle nuances. There's nothing subtle about some of Willem Mengelberg's tempo fluctuations. In the first movement of Beethoven's 1st, toward the end of the exposition when the music turns briefly to the minor, he brakes the music to half speed for a few bars, then accelerates back up to tempo. He does it again in the recapitulation.



This kind of rubato is not structural, as with Furtwängler, but expressive. Whether you consider it creative or destructive, :) it's very different from what we hear today, and was prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Whether this will be any use to you in your music appreciation program, I don't know, but possibly so.
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by maestrob » Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:25 pm

Excellent answer, John! :D

For more contrast, Belle, you might try Klemperer, who is slightly slower and heavier in his Beethoven than what you have posted, IIRC.

As an observation, I would say that Beethoven VII sort of plays itself. All of the marked tempi work very well, and in the modern style there's not much room for "interpretation." You might find more differences in the final movement of VIII, which was recorded by Toscanini at a slightly slower tempo than is marked. IMHO, the marked tempo is slightly too fast for the notes to be fulfilled, although it has been recorded that way by Chailly and Norrington, while Toscanini and HVK use a slightly slower tempo to allow the instruments to fulfill the notes properly.

I don't believe that Kleiber performed VIII, btw. Am I wrong?

Good luck with your class!

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:30 am

Thank you for your contributions. Very much appreciated.

John, your thinking is much the same as mine because all of those conductors on my list are regarded as interpreters of a post WW2 style (those links you provided failed to appear!). Thanks for the excellent comparative samples which you discuss; I only wish the links had worked (but I can hunt them out myself(.

I wasn't intending to compare with the HIP conductors like Norrington or Harnoncourt which, if anything, is an example of the cult of the conductor because Harnoncourt in particular wrote extensively on his practice and beliefs regarding period music. The conundrum, then, becomes this (and it follows from your comments); if there's very little difference between the performances of these conductors why are they each so renowned and sought-after? Surely it's not enough to suggest that this is because they keep the orchestra together, beat time etc. They have their own views on how the music should sound!! Karajan was an exemplar of the celebrity conductor who was associated with a certain richness in orchestral tone, Kleiber for his intensity and pace...etc etc. We ought to be able to identify some of those aspects from those clips.

To the best of my knowledge Kleiber did not perform the Beethoven 8, but I am willing to be corrected on this by a higher authority!!! :(

Also, the cult of the conductor is, along with a particular orchestra, responsible for music venues being filled to capacity with music-lovers and for recordings being sold IMO. Gergiev remains one such modern conductor who has a kind of aura/cult following around him which doesn't seem justified from some criticisms I've read of his working habits and style. In short, I disagree with Dorati that there is no such thing as the cult of the conductor.

Regarding Klemperer; one of our group who does presentations is a real enthusiast for that conductor and often lets us hear his performances of varied works. Without exception I've found them ponderous and way beyond the pale. I'm not sure why Klemperer perceived music that way but it was certainly an idiosyncratic signifier of this conductor that he should do so. At least to my ears. Perhaps Klemperer was harking back to some of those older conductors and styles that John mentioned.

Two of my colleagues at music appreciation - both retired musicians and pedagogues - find it amusing that I find Kleiber not only a compelling conductor but a man who cut an extremely attractive and elegant figure on the podium. Surely this is what Karajan's look and style were also about; glamour and good looks combined with musical rigour (not coincidental that Karajan was a hero of Kleiber). I'm uncertain about why people find this notion disconcerting (no pun intended)! Perhaps they think music-lovers (particularly females over a certain age) shouldn't notice such things. It was part of the package with Kleiber, IMO, and I'm certain recording company executives exploited it to the hilt! :D

John F
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Fri Feb 24, 2017 5:20 am

For those who can't see my embedded links - I can, using Firefox for Windows fully updated - here they are spelled out.

Richard Strauss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAU0YbOFZK0

Mengelberg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBtNLBeq2KI&t=201s

Of course the recordings Belle lists are not identical. Even at essentially the same tempo, they can differ in the sound of the orchestra and in the impression they give of intensity or relaxation, abandon or control, and other qualities. A Toscanini performance with the NBC Symphony Orchestra can usually be identified by ear, not because his tempos were radically fast but because of the way his orchestra plays attacks and releases, especially the strings - the release comes fractionally early and creates a semi-staccato effect contributing to his characteristic impression of intensity. Karajan in the recording studio created a blended orchestral sound, especially in Berlin, with the winds and brass absorbed into the texture; and of course there's the difference between German and French/Viennese oboe sound. Nonetheless, these differences are minor set beside a pre-modern conductor's way. Perceiving them requires close attention and a somewhat educated ear, while anybody can hear what makes a Mengelberg performance unique.

It's certainly not a mistake for audiences to focus on the conductor. He's the most visible musician they see, standing on a box while most of the players sit, waving his baton like a magic wand in time to the music (which anybody in the audience can do even if they can't actually make music), and orchestras abet this by publicizing their conductors more than their players. Stanley Drucker played first clarinet in the New York Philharmonic for 50 years with the brilliance, sensitivity, and imagination of a top soloist, but few in the audience could see him or knew his name, except when he occasionally played a concerto. I'm one who thinks Valery Gergiev is one of the most exciting conductors today, in his best repertoire; I traveled to London for his Prokofiev Symphonies cycle with the London Symphony. (It was recorded and published by Philips.) But a "cult," meaning excessive and perhaps specious admiration? Undoubtedly there was a Toscanini cult during his lifetime, a widespread feeling (fed by NBC publicity) that he was the only conductor who really mattered, but I'd say no conductor today or in the recent past has that kind of standing with the American public. Maybe because classical music generally is not as important to average people as it used to be.
John Francis

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by THEHORN » Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:35 pm

The individual musicians are responsible for their individual parts, but the conductor has to know everyone's part by thoroughly studying the full score , which contains all the parts going on simultaneously . This is no easy task, as orchestral works can have 20 to 30 o so parts shown together .
The conductor might be compared to the director of a play or movie . You couldn't make a long and complex movie like the Titanic or Avatar without a director . Technically , it's possible for an orchestra , usually one playing a work for a small orchestra , to perform without a conductor , but forget about doing this with a Mahler symphony or a Richard Strauss tone poem, or Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and other complex orchestral works .
It's very difficult for orchestra to perform ritardandos or accelerandos without a conductor , or to make gradual changes of tempo marked in a score . The conductor has to listen carefully at rehearsals for balance , intonation and so many other details . It's very easy for the brass to drown out the rest of the orchestra in some passages , so the conductor has to make sure this doesn't happen .
The Orpheus chamber orchestra based in New York , has never used a conductor . The musicians discuss things at rehearsal and make decisions as a group about how to play the music .
But this requires a lot more rehearsal time than with a conductor .
Around the 1920s or 30s, there was a Soviet orchestra , full -sized, which performed without a conductor . They were able to give concerts, but needed a heck of a lot more rehearsal time than most
orchestras . This would be absolutely impossible with orchestras which play a different program every week .

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Fri Feb 24, 2017 4:32 pm

Totally agree with these comments.

I was listening again yesterday to Kleiber's version of "Tristan und Isolde" - the famous recording made in Dresden. (The disc was chewed up in my new Unison Research CD player - an absolute disaster of a machine - and I wanted to see if the disc was damaged by the terrible scratches inflicted on it by this Italian rubbish player! $3,000, if you don't mind!) Well, I could hear horns towards the end of the Liebestod that I cannot hear at all in Barenboim's version with the BPO and they sounded magnificent and grand! In a documentary about Kleiber a musician from the Bavarian State Orchestra, Klaus Koenig, speaks about Kleiber's extraordinary musical insight and another musician speaks about telling Kleiber he could no longer listen to anybody else's "Tristan" after hearing the conductor's version in 1974 at Bayreuth.

All this from a conductor who was a terrible pianist himself and who only studied music seriously from age 20. Barely a short time after this Kleiber began working in provincial opera companies.

Imagine an operatic orchestra without a conductor! Kleiber controlled all; both orchestra and singers.

John F
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Sat Feb 25, 2017 7:40 pm

Belle wrote:I was listening again yesterday to Kleiber's version of "Tristan und Isolde" - the famous recording made in Dresden.
It's amazing that the recording holds together as a performance. Many, many recording sessions spread across several years. I believe this was Kleiber's last commercial studio recording of a complete opera, and from its history you can see why he (and DG) had had enough. Unfortunately, that leaves an unfinished recording of "Wozzeck" in the DG vaults.

I heard Kleiber conduct "Wozzeck" (and several other operas) in Stuttgart back in 1967-8, when he was a staff conductor at that opera house, and despite some strange miscasting (Gerhard Stolze as Wozzeck, Irmgard Seefried as Marie) those performances were so persuasive that they opened Berg's score to me as listening to records had never done. What a pity, then, that we have no Kleiber studio recording of that opera. I see there's a 1970 Bavarian State Opera performance by him on CD, and haven't heard it but I should. The casting isn't ideal (Theo Adam and Wendy Fine), but it's better than in Stuttgart.

As for "Tristan und Isolde," I think the Bayreuth live recording with Helge Brilioth and Caterina Ligendza is the Kleiber performance to have. One reason may be the excellent production by August Everding, reproduced at the Met; Kleiber may have been inspired by what he saw on the stage while conducting. It's a great cast from top to bottom, including also Donald McIntyre, Yvonne Minton, and Kurt Moll Worth getting if you don't already have it.

For me, Carlos Kleiber was above all an opera conductor. His appearances at the Met - I saw many of them - were exceptional in a way that his Beethoven symphonies, for example, aren't so much. For some comments by members of the Met orchestra, here's a page from their web site:

http://www.metorchestramusicians.org/bl ... the-podium

When he first came here, for his debut with "La Boheme," the Met administration knew his reputation and made an unusual number of orchestral rehearsals available to him. (They also cast this mid-season revival with singers Kleiber had previously worked with happily: Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni.) But they hadn't reckoned with the Met Orchestra's special quality, and that it had often played this opera under James Levine. I'm told that before the end of their second orchestral rehearsal, of four scheduled, Kleiber said everything was as he wanted, no further rehearsals were needed, so he released them early and next met them for the rehearsals with the singers and chorus. Later he complimented the orchestra in a private letter to one of its members: "I felt more at home with your orchestra than anywhere else, before or since. That's the truth!" Credit where it's due: before the Levine era, he couldn't have said that of the Met Orchestra, which reached a lamentable low point in the '60s, and he might not have returned after those first "La Boheme" performances - if indeed he had stayed to conduct them.

Kleiber's connection with the Met ended when he demanded an extraordinary extra fee for conducting the broadcast "Der Rosenkavalier." The Met wouldn't agree, indeed they couldn't, as it would have set a precedent for all 20 broadcasts every season, and unlike the European houses where Kleiber was used to conducting, there was no government subsidy to help balance the budget. As far as I know, Kleiber never explained or commented on his action, but I wonder if the cast changes for the spring performances may have put him off (different principals except the Ochs), or maybe he decided he'd had enough of New York and the Met, and found a pretext for not coming back. I guess we'll never know.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sat Feb 25, 2017 9:33 pm

I can't tell you how moved I was to read all this and how grateful for the additional information about Kleiber. I accept your observation about him first and foremost as an opera dirigent, but his Brahms #4 is unchallenged as the best recording ever of that work - IMO. Pity about the appalling digital recording. Did you know this performance was found in his car CD player the day after he died in Slovenia? Kleiber was in an already severely depressed frame of mind when driving across the Alps on the preceding days, so I have a mental image of what it was like for him listening to that recording.

I have the link already which you provided from the Met musician and will read some of it on Thursday. I didn't know about the other "Tristan" recording of which you speak. Right about the very day I was being married - 27 July, 1974 - Kleiber was conducting this same opera at Bayreuth.

Kleiber probably used the excessive fee knock-back at the Met as an excuse not to conduct - that and/or his son's swimming lessons!! This was vintage Kleiber behaviour. He loved the USA, his mother was American (born in Waterloo, Iowa) and he actually went to school for a time at the Riverdale Country School in New York - 1947-48. Most say his English was better than his German!!

We'll also never understand his capricious behaviour - a combination of arrogance and insecurity. Sometimes these two things go together. I find him endlessly fascinating.

John F
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:01 am

I wouldn't agree that Kleiber's Brahms 4 is unchallenged - it's certainly very fine, but not my own #1. (I have none, actually - there are several I wouldn't be without.) I'm more appreciative of the Romantic or post-Romantic style of interpretation than many here, so I find more of what I want in recordings of that kind, including several by Furtwängler which for me are more volatile than Kleiber's. To each her/his own. :)
John Francis

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:03 am

As ever, a bonus having your thoughts on this. Thank you.

jserraglio
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:55 am

Along with Ansermet/OSR, Bruno Walter has always been my preferred Brahms conductor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aztB7E1Wjbs

_________________________________________________

I have watched several clips of C. Kleiber in rehearsal. Fascinating for me as a viewer. A trial for the players? Verbose?

When I want charismatic, cunductorial cult, I go back to the guy who pretty much patented it in the 20th century.


Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:25 am

From what I've read and the interviews I've seen on film most musicians were very admiring of Kleiber and his phenomenal knowledge of scores and conducting skills. That early rehearsal - Stuttgart 1970 - is but one example of him in rehearsal and you'll notice how even the hardest souls were melted.

However, one musician from the Bavarian State Orchestra said Kleiber wasn't a conductor for everyday; that you couldn't have candy every day. He said one or two Der Rosenkavalier performances a week was enough but after that he wanted to kill him with a tomahawk!! This was the exceptional comment rather than the rule.

I don't know who you refer to regarding 'conductorial cult'. I can only think you mean Bruno Walter.

jserraglio
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:34 am

Belle wrote:From what I've read and the interviews I've seen on film most musicians were very admiring of Kleiber and his phenomenal knowledge of scores and conducting skills. That early rehearsal - Stuttgart 1970 - is but one example of him in rehearsal and you'll notice how even the hardest souls were melted.

However, one musician from the Bavarian State Orchestra said Kleiber wasn't a conductor for everyday; that you couldn't have candy every day. He said one or two Der Rosenkavalier performances a week was enough but after that he wanted to kill him with a tomahawk!! This was the exceptional comment rather than the rule.

I don't know who you refer to regarding 'conductorial cult'. I can only think you mean Bruno Walter.
Sorry, I meant Stokowski. And I DO like Kleiber. A lot. It's just that in the rehearsals I've seen, the musicians looked sceptical. However, I loved every minute of it.
Last edited by jserraglio on Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:35 am


jserraglio
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:38 am

Belle wrote:Not here in Vienna!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap7r-bUvbQk
Thanks, I'll watch. I'm a fan, esp. of his live concerts. And was it the stunning Fledermaus Overture rehearsal that is burned into my fallible memory?

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:48 am

Yes, the Fledermaus and Frieschutz rehearsal through a SDR-TV series called "Observed at Work". Some of the musicians at that rehearsals recalled the experience, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta8Tqjn7Suo

And also in a documentary entitled, "I am Lost to the World", about Carlos Kleiber.

jserraglio
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:58 am

Belle wrote:Yes, the Fledermaus and Frieschutz rehearsal through a SDR-TV series called "Observed at Work". Some of the musicians at that rehearsals recalled the experience, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta8Tqjn7Suo

And also in a documentary entitled, "I am Lost to the World", about Carlos Kleiber.
Thanks, I've seen that docu twice on YT, mesmerized me, and will check out your other link. Music aside, I love the way CK articulates German though I barely understand a word of it. I am also a big fan of his daddy's conducting.

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:04 am

jserraglio wrote:Along with Ansermet/OSR, Bruno Walter has always been my preferred Brahms conductor
I learned a lot from Columbia's remarkable 2-record set of Walter rehearsing the (East coast) Columbia Symphony Orchestra in Mozart's Symphony #36, called "The Birth of a Performance." Maybe the first recording of its kind, though not the last. It's been reissued on CD:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6sokZUSCH0

Persistent but courteous - "my friends" - he gives the symphony a distinctive, essentially lyrical profile. Some passages in the first movement are much more cantabile than usual, and indeed than in his own later recording, I was surprised to find out. Since he's teaching the music to the orchestra, which hadn't played it before, and was doing it on the record company's time, he hadn't the luxury of playing through whole movements before changing things. Not all players liked his rehearsal method; the oboist Robert Bloom didn't want to be told how to play his solos, as we hear Walter doing in the introduction. But he got what he wanted efficiently and with a minimum of fuss. Sixty years of experience did him no harm.
Last edited by John F on Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:07 am

jserraglio wrote:
Belle wrote:Yes, the Fledermaus and Frieschutz rehearsal through a SDR-TV series called "Observed at Work". Some of the musicians at that rehearsals recalled the experience, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta8Tqjn7Suo

And also in a documentary entitled, "I am Lost to the World", about Carlos Kleiber.
Thanks, I've seen that docu twice on YT, mesmerized me, and will check out your other link. Music aside, I love the way CK articulates German though I barely understand a word of it. I am also a big fan of his daddy's conducting.
I spelled "Freischutz" incorrectly.

Kleiber spoke better English than German and he knew Hemingway through his father; he learned to emulate that writer and could easily have had a career as a fiction writer.

I love Kleiber's sensuous, elegant and refined voice!!

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:10 am

John F wrote:I learned a lot from Columbia's remarkable 2-record set of Walter rehearsing the (East coast) Columbia Symphony Orchestra in Mozart's Symphony #36, called "The Birth of a Performance." Maybe the first recording of its kind, though not the last. It's been reissued on CD:
Persistent but courteous - "my friends" - he gives the symphony a distinctive profile. Some passages in the first movement are much more cantabile than usual, and indeed than in his own later recording, I was surprised to find out. Since he's teaching the music to the orchestra, which hadn't played it before, and was doing it on the record company's time, he hadn't the luxury of playing through whole movements before changing things. Not all players liked his rehearsal method; the oboist Robert Bloom didn't want to be told how to play his solos, as we hear Walter doing in the introduction. But he got what he wanted efficiently and with a minimum of fuss. Sixty years of experience did him no harm.
Beecham, Stokowski, and Walter. Their rehearsals are fascinating. Esp. Beecham's for a non-musician like me.

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:14 am

Belle wrote:I love Kleiber's sensuous, elegant and refined voice!!
Sometimes "verbose" is good! CK's "grace under pressure" rehearsals are almost more of a performance than his performances. High-wire acts!

Belle
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:52 am

Beecham has been mentioned here. He wasn't a practicing musician himself, unlike most conductors. Kleiber was a fairly poor pianist. That's what these two have in common, but I disliked Beecham's pompous and surly demeanour.

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by THEHORN » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:21 pm

Belle, Beecham was actually loved by orchestral musicians because of his droll sense of
humor at rehearsals . He used to crack them up at rehearsals with his witticisms .
His behavior wasn't "pompous and surly ", although he made a lot of humorous disparaging
comments about other musicians and his podium colleagues as well as certain composers .
I also disagree with you about Valery Gergiev . He can be erratic and some of his performances have been somewhat slapdash , but at his best , he is on of the most inspired and
exciting conductors you could ever imagine .
His CDs and DVDs of Russian operas by Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin,Prokofiev and Shostakovich are absolutely essential for lovers of Russian opera , for example .

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Lance » Tue Feb 28, 2017 10:07 pm

John Francis, is this the book entitled Notes of Seven Decades by Dorati? I'm not sure if he wrote anything else. If so, I have a copy and will re-read it since I read it so long ago. In a way, I kind of agree with Dorati if he said that. On the other hand, we all have favourite conductors, not necessarily the big-named ones. I have always been a fan of Mitropoulos, Koussevitzky, Furtwangler, Stokowski, Fricsay, Bruno Walter, Monteux, Reiner, Szell, etc., and quite a number of others, many from the so-called "golden age" because the music comes to me with authority and excitement and remains with me long after heard. Sir Thomas Beecham was most assuredly a "cult" conductor, but I grew very fond of his work regardless of the cult tag. How does one describe that? Then, too, we have all heard things from superb conductors of repute where most of what they performed was excellent, yet sometimes it bombed. Maybe it's a more personal thing than it is musical to some degree.
John F wrote:
Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:26 pm
If you can get hold of Antal Dorati's memoirs, he has some direct and refreshing things to say about the so-called cult of the conductor. He doesn't buy it."
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Wed Mar 01, 2017 6:14 am

Yes, that's the book. When musicians generalize about music-making, it's almost always about their personal approach and preferences, however universal they may claim their observations to be. This is especially so in an autobiography, which is first of all a work of self-justification. That said, Dorati is unusually candid and matter-of-fact, while of course accentuating the positive - he likes and quotes favorable reviews. As far as I know, he never taught conducting, and indeed believed it couldn't be taught beyond the basic mechanics, which of course puts him in distinguished company but sets him apart from conductor-teachers like Leonard Bernstein.
Last edited by John F on Wed Mar 01, 2017 7:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Wed Mar 01, 2017 7:00 am

THEHORN wrote:
Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:21 pm
Beecham was actually loved by orchestral musicians because of his droll sense of humor at rehearsals . He used to crack them up at rehearsals with his witticisms.
Absolutely, and not just the musicians. The one Beecham concert I ever attended ended with a couple of encores, what Beecham liked to call lollipops, and before the last of them he turned to the audience and told us that it's a lovely piece but he didn't know what it is. If anyone could say, would they please let him know? Then, turning back toward the orchestra, we heard him say "Telegram?" Of course we all broke up. In the paper the next day, the reviewer said it was Delius's "Sleigh Ride."

He was a notorious wit, and books of his witticisms and anecdotes have been published, such as "Beecham Stories." At a rehearsal of Strauss's "Elektra" he told the players, "The singers are determined to make themselves heard, and I'm going to make bloody well sure they can't." :mrgreen: (Actually, Beecham was a brilliant Strauss conductor, and there's a 1947 BBC broadcast of "Elektra" to prove it.)

Beecham was a capable pianist; he recorded Delius songs accompanying Dora Labbette. Not virtuoso music by any means, but despite the image Beecham cultivated as an amateur of music, and his unconventional stick technique (if indeed it was a technique), he was a thorough professional, at home and in command in the opera house as on the concert platform and in the recording studio.
John Francis

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by jserraglio » Wed Mar 01, 2017 8:44 am

I was a model child. I hardly ever spoke.
As it turned out, Sir Thomas did have a few things to say in this delightful interview with Peter Brook (8:39-15:46), where it seems as if his character had just stepped out of an Oscar Wilde play. Beecham's procession to the rehearsal podium at 3:31 and initial comments to the orchestra are hilarious. His ridicule of young conductors at 13:35 might apply to the youthful Carlos Kleiber, among others.



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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Fri Mar 03, 2017 7:41 pm

On Thursday I presented the first of my (two) lectures about Kleiber and there were 40 in the audience. I must say they were extremely enthusiastic and many came down in the break to talk to me, including one man who had seen Kleiber conduct "Otello", I think in London. Another friend brought him along (he's not a regular in our enrolled group) simply because of my focus on the conductor and she thought I'd like to meet him.

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Sat Mar 04, 2017 8:56 pm

Glad to hear it went well, as I was sure it would.
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:38 pm

Thank you very much. You're obviously a very fine man!!

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Sun Mar 05, 2017 1:05 pm

:)
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by Belle » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:09 am

I sent a member of our Music Appreciation audience, who is also a friend, a U-Tube link to the documentary about Carlos Kleiber, "Traces to Nowhere" after my Kleiber presentation. She showed a keen interest in the conductor and only tonight I've received this email back from her:

Just on that "blue eyes matching blue suit" comment* - I laughed because of the stony response - I was completely on Carlos' side in that exchange. He was so gorgeous as he enthused - I love to see people go over the top when they are excited. That's why your presentations are so enjoyable - your love of the topic is so infectious that we all get carried along on the back of your passion. You must have been a fabulous teacher.

It's great to received feedback like that!!

Here is the great man conducting fragments of "Wozzeck" on two rare U-Tube links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oCBTslT1Pc

(*He was complementing Walter Schaefer at Stuttgart Opera on his livery and matching blue eyes.)

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Mon Mar 13, 2017 5:38 am

Years ago, a woman told me I should wear blue because I have blue eyes. That struck me as rather silly - should only people with red eyes wear red? - and blue is far from my favorite color. But her fashion sense was better than mine (which is nil), and at the time I cared more about the impression I made on strangers than I do now, so I did wear blue shirts more often than I had been doing. Nobody ever complimented me, certainly not any young conductors who might become world-famous. :D

Walter Erich Schäfer was one of the great opera managers of our time, meaning since the War. As Intendant of the Württemberg State Opera in Stuttgart, now called the Stuttgart Opera, he built a strong ensemble of singers and conductors that long remained loyal to the house, including the general music director Ferdinand Leitner and the great Heldentenor Wolfgang Windgassen. It really was an ensemble. In addition to the Wagner roles which brought him international renown, I saw Windgassen as Florestan, Otello, and Eisenstein in "Die Fledermaus." Besides opera, Schäfer offered the choreographer John Cranko the opportunity to create and develop the Stuttgart Ballet, which became world famous in the '60s and '70s. It was their performances, especially of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," that showed me that ballet could be powerful theatre.

Schäfer offered Wieland Wagner carte blanche to produce any operas he wanted to, at a time when Wieland's approach was controversial and indeed widely rejected. It wasn't just the money, which WW needed, but the atmosphere of collegial cooperation in Stuttgart that led him to direct and design 8 Wagner operas including the Ring, plus Fidelio, Orfeo ed Euridice, Strauss's Salome and Elektra, Orff's Antigonae and Comœdia de Christi Resurrectione, and Berg's Lulu. Stuttgart was accordingly known as the Winter Bayreuth. Not all were successes, but Schäfer stood by Wieland and was well rewarded for it. I saw nearly all of these productions while stationed near Stuttgart with the US Army, and was stunned by the originality, beauty, and power of his style. Those who saw his Lulu, with the very young Anja Silja in the title role, will never forget it.

And of course I heard quite a few operas including Wozzeck conducted by Carlos Kleiber, whom Schäfer hired as 1st Kapellmeister despite his relative lack of experience. So I have many reasons to be thankful to Dr. Schäfer.
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by THEHORN » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:23 pm

John, Gerhard Stolze sang Wozzeck under Kleiber ? How could this be ? He was a tenor, and Wozzeck is a baritone role. Stolze sings a brilliantly unhinged captain in Bohm's classic DG recording of the opera on DG , but Wozzeck ?

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:31 pm

I was there. The role of Wozzeck doesn't lie very low - Fischer-Dieskau recorded it - and in this opera, singers can have recourse to speaking or shouting whatever they can't sing. Cf. Karl Doench as the doctor in the Boulez recording.
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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by lennygoran » Sun Apr 02, 2017 7:06 am

John F wrote:
Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:31 pm
I was there. The role of Wozzeck doesn't lie very low - Fischer-Dieskau recorded it - and in this opera, singers can have recourse to speaking or shouting whatever they can't sing. Cf. Karl Doench as the doctor in the Boulez recording.
FWIW I found this at wiki-I wonder if needs an update-they mention him as the Captain-forgot about his Wozzeck?

"He also sang the Captain in Wozzeck "

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard_Stolze

The one you mention seems to talk about your performance. Regards, Len

"This Wozzeck was all the more striking for an anomaly it threw in our teeth. A name-part written for baritone and thus interchangeable with the Scarpias, Hans Sachses, Papagenos and Iagos of this world, was given, believe it or not, to a tenor. It is true that Gerhard Stolze is no ordinary tenor. He is a 'character' tenor of the subtle, reflective Wagnerian sort. What more penetrating or more justly sung than his Mime and Loge? Another consideration. Wozzeck is no ordinary baritone role. Not only is the tessitura relatively high, but much of it is written according to the sprechgcsang code. That is to say, there are phrases and stretches where, to heighten the dramatic effect, the singer is required not to hit a given sequence of notes dead-centre but to aim at pitch- approximations which shall be neither speech nor song but something in between. The sort of thing, in short, that makes the confirmed bel-cantoist's blood boil and makes some of the unconfirmed ones feel a bit tetchy now and then"

http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/ ... blood-boil

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Re: Same piece, different conductor

Post by John F » Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:47 am

That's the same production of "Wozzeck" I'm speaking of - it was taken to the Edinburgh Festival the following summer. The reviewer says essentially what I've said, so we must both be right. :) Belle will be interested in this comment on the conducting:
The conductor was Carlos Kleiber, son of the late Erich Kleiber, who first brought out "Wozzeck," staking his reputation on it, in Berlin forty years ago. As well as zest for detail, young Kleiber has the poetry of the music in him. That was clear, to cite one page only, from the balm he drew from the strings in the marvellous interlude between the second and third scenes of Act I.
Gerhard Stolze's usual role in "Wozzeck" was the Captain; he sings it in the Karl Böhm recording. As far as I know, he sang the title role only once, in the Stuttgart production, but maybe it deserves mention in the Wikipedia article. I'll think about it.
John Francis

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