Otto Klemperer' 40th The Last Concert Anniversary Issue (1971, London)
Oratorio: The Messiah
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Conductor: Otto Klemperer
Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra of London
Chorus: Philharmonia Chorus of London
Chorus Director: Wilhelm Pitz (from the Bayreuth Festival)
Nicolai Gedda (tenor)
Jerome Hines (bass)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Grace Hoffman (contralto)
Recorded: Kingsway Hall, London 1964 (Studio)
Spars Code: ADD (stereo)
Set: 2 Audio CD
George Frideric Handel was born in Germany, but at the age of 27 settled in England and his hugely successful career has led to him being adopted as an English composer. His childhood was the familiar one of a prodigy: despite a parental ban on the pursuit of music, he nevertheless secretly made such rapid progress on the keyboard that his talents were soon noticed by his father's aristocratic employer.
He was allowed to study music as well as law, and spent four years in Italiy, where he heard countless oratorios and operas. With these in mind he went on to compose the large-scale sacred and theatrical works which brought him both fame and financial reward, particularly in his adopted country.
Operas such as 'Julius Caesar' and 'Alcina' are just two of many which have enjoyed spectacular revivals in recent years, whilst the popularity of such oratorios as 'Israel in Egypt', Samson (staged with great success at Covent Garden in the 1950s) and, of course, 'Messiah' make him one of the most celebrated composers of the 18th century.
Handel had an unparalleled flair for the theatre, coupled with a unique ability to stir the hearts and minds of audiences with memorable melodies (both in rousing choruses and in impassioned and tender arias) - found equally in his music for the concert-hall and for smaller instrumental forces.
Written in an amazing 24 days and first performed in Dublin in 1742, Handel's 'Messiah' has undoubtedly survived as one of the greatest oratorios written, and has been perennially popular (even if through various performing versions over the centuries from Mozart to Sir Thomas Beecham). Amazingly, although 'Messiah' was a success at its first performance, it was not an immediate hit in England and Handel revised it several times over a period of years (usually dictated by the stregths or weaknesses of the singers available for particular performances) before it reached the version usually performed today in 1750.
In Handel's day, oratorios were written to be performed during periods of the year (usually Lent) when the church did not allow secular operas to be staged. So, many oratorios were operas in all but name, and were performed in concert using all the star opera singers of the time.
Together with 'Israel in Egypt', 'Messiah' is an exception in that the of each oratorio does not tell a narrative story, but is rather a devotional contemplation, using verses complied directly from the Bible (in the case of 'Messiah' by Charles Jennens).
[from Emiclassics Edition]
Otto Klemperer (14.05.1885 – 06.07.1973) was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century.
Klemperer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, then in Germany (now Wrocław, Poland). He studied music first at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, and later at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin under Hans Pfitzner. In 1905 he met Gustav Mahler while conducting the off-stage brass at a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, 'Resurrection'. He also made a piano reduction of the second symphony. The two men became friends, and Klemperer became conductor at the German Opera in Prague in 1907 on Mahler's recommendation. Mahler wrote a short testimonial, recommending Klemperer, on a small card which Klemperer kept for the rest of his life. Later, in 1910, Klemperer assisted Mahler in the premiere of his Symphony No. 8, Symphony of a Thousand.
Klemperer from 1927 to 1931 was conductor at the Kroll Opera in Berlin. In this post he enhanced his reputation as a champion of new music, playing a number of new works, including Leoš Janáček's From the House of the Dead, Arnold Schönberg's Erwartung, Igor Stravinsky's Oedipus rex, and Paul Hindemith's Cardillac.
In 1933, once the Nazi Party had reached power, Klemperer, who was Jewish, left Germany and moved to the United States. Klemperer had previously converted to Catholicism, but returned to Judaism at the end of his life. In the U.S. he was appointed Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He took United States citizenship in 1937. In Los Angeles, he began to concentrate more on the standard works of the Germanic rłepertoire that would later bring him greatest acclaim, particularly the works of Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler, though he gave the Los Angeles premieres of some of fellow Los Angeles resident Arnold Schoenberg's works with the Philharmonic. He also visited other countries, including England and Australia. While the orchestra responded well to his leadership, Klemperer had a difficult time adjusting to Southern California, a situation exacerbated by repeated manic-depressive episodes, reportedly as a result of severe cyclothymic bipolar disorder.
Then, after completing the 1939 Los Angeles Philharmonic summer season at the Hollywood Bowl, Klemperer was visiting Boston and was incorrectly diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the subsequent brain surgery left him partially paralyzed. He went into a depressive state and was placed in institution; when he escaped, The New York Times ran a cover story declaring him missing, and after being found in New Jersey, a picture of him behind bars was printed in the Herald Tribune. Though he would occasionally conduct the Philharmonic after that, he lost the post of Music Director. Furthermore, his erratic behavior during manic episodes made him an undesirable guest to US orchestras, and the late flowering of his career centered in other countries.
Following the end of World War II, Klemperer returned to Continental Europe to work at the Budapest Opera (1947–1950). Finding Communist rule in Hungary increasingly irksome, he became an itinerant conductor, guest conducting the Royal Danish Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Philharmonia of London. His career was turned around in 1954 by the London-based producer Walter Legge, who recorded Klemperer in Beethoven, Brahms and much else with his hand-picked orchestra, the Philharmonia, for the EMI label. He became the first principal conductor of the Philharmonia in 1959. He settled in Switzerland. Klemperer also worked at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, sometimes stage-directing as well as conducting, as in a 1963 production of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. He also conducted Mozart's The Magic Flute there in 1963.
Klemperer is less well known as a composer, but he wrote a number of pieces, including six symphonies, a Mass, nine string quartets, many lieder and the opera Das Ziel. He seldom performed any of these himself and they have generally fallen into neglect since his death, although his works have received the occasional commercial recording.
One of his last concert tours was to Jerusalem. Klemperer had performed in Palestine before the state of Israel declared its independence, and returned to Jerusalem only in 1970 to conduct the Israeli Broadcasting Authority Symphonic Orchestra in two concerts, performing the six Brandenburg Concerti and Mozart's symphonies 39, 40 and 41. During this tour he took Israeli citizenship. He retired from conducting in 1971. Klemperer died in Zurich, Switzerland in 1973, aged 88, and was buried in Zurich's Israelitischer Friedhof-Oberer Friesenberg.