Christa Ludwig (Mezzo-Soprano), Hans Hotter (Bass-Baritone), Waldemar Kmentt (Tenor)
Philharmonia Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer was born on 14th May 1885 in Breslau, Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland) and died on 6th July 1973 in Zurich and hence next year we mark 40 years since his passing. He had had a remarkable career as a young man but it was at the age of 70 that he started a series of recordings that would not only establish him as an internationally renowned conductor but provide EMI with a catalogue of recordings that became and remain touchstones.
Walter Legge, founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra and one of EMI’s chief recording producers, wanted to secure a set of Beethoven symphonies that would not only fill an immediate commercial need but would stand the test of time. In Otto Klemperer he found the ideal candidate and their partnership yielded not only the Symphonies and Overtures (some more than once) but also the Missa Solemnis and Fidelio.
Beethoven was fated to struggle throughout his life especially with the deafness that he started to notice when in his early thirties, thereby forcing him to look increasingly to his inner being for the spark of creation. Klemperer, too, had his fights for life including suffering a stroke whilst a brain tumour was being removed and having to flee his country within a day to prevent potential arrest by the Nazi authorities.
This set not only includes the symphonies (with both versions of Nos. 3 and 5 and all three of No. 7) but also nine of the Overtures (with duplicate versions) and extracts from the Incidental music to Egmont and the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. Although these recordings have been available in various couplings, this is the first time that a comprehensive collection of Beethoven’s solo orchestral work conducted by Otto Klemperer has been made.