Haines Logo Text
Column Archive
November 17, 2020:

MR. KLEMPERER’S MAHLER

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, what can I say about yesterday that I haven’t already said?  Oh, wait, I haven’t said anything about yesterday, have I?  That would be jumping the gun, wouldn’t it?  And I have learned long ago that one should never jump a gun because the gun will always have the upper hand, gun-wise.  So, we will have to wait until I say something about yesterday so I can say what can I say about yesterday that I haven’t already said.  Otherwise, I’m sitting here like so much fish, listening to yet more Mahler.  After listening to Bernstein’s Sibelius cycle on Sony, I began going through his first Mahler cycle with the New York Philharmonic, which has many wonderful performances.  I’ve read many criticisms of his Mahler 5 so I listened very carefully to that one and the criticisms are not without merit and mostly have to do with sound issues.  It was the first recording Bernstein did in the then-new Lincoln Center and Sony’s excellent engineers were still figuring out the venue and hadn’t solved any of its issues.  And I think that affected both Bernstein and the band.  You can hear it instantly in the opening solo, which is just not good, not the playing and certainly not the sound.  It does get better as it goes along, sound-wise, but there are many other better recordings to be had of that one.  But the first four symphonies are all excellent.  But as most critics will tell you, there really isn’t a completely optimal cycle from one conductor – I happen to think Kubelik’s is a great set, but despite the wonderful performances and sound, there is no edge to Kubelik – they’re very smooth, excellent performances that just seem to lack that Mahlerian passion and grit.  The Blu-ray audio version is terrific, sound-wise, and I do like all the performances.  But I’m sure could put together one’s own cycle with different conductors to very pleasing results.  And I must say that Mr. Otto Klemperer’s Mahler is very compelling and would and should be at the top of any list – he only recorded (in stereo) symphonies 2, 4, 7, and 9, but I’m listening to them now, having never heard them before.  They’re available in a really cheap box set – six CDs for twenty bucks and thus far I’ve heard the second and fourth symphonies and these are magnificent in performance and sound and have gone right to the top of my favorites.  I mean the tippy top, maybe even surpassing Bruno Walter’s of those two symphonies, because Klemperer’s band is better.  But here’s where it gets really fascinating: When the second began I immediately thought they’d completely screwed up the transfer because those wonderful basses at the top were on the left, not the right, and I could hear violins on the right.  So, I Googled it and found that Klemperer chose to have the orchestra seated as they would have been in Germany at the time of Mahler (who he knew).  So, basses on the left, violins one on the right and violins two on the left (or the other way around, can’t remember) and boy does it take some getting used to, but in the end it was so incredibly detailed that way that I just loved it.  Can’t wait to hear the songs sung by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Christa Ludwig and then the seventh and ninth followed by Das Lied von Der Erde.  I am, as they say, blown away.

Yesterday was a nice day, certainly. I got almost eight hours of sleep, got up, answered e-mails, and almost all the remaining tracks were waiting for me, so I listened, and most were fine, and I had minor notes on a couple, which Richard Allen then redid and sent, so there’s only one song left and that’s a big load off.  After that, I moseyed on over to the mail place and picked up a few packages, including this Klemperer set, which is, as you know, blowing me away (no mean feat).  I came home and prepared the meal whilst listening to Lenny’s Mahler, the meal being bow tie pasta with pink sauce, meat, and onions.  It turned out really well, actually, and I ate it all up.  I think it was a little less than six ounces of pasta and other than a few taffy candies, that’s all I ate, so I’m thinking about a late-night snack as a treat – just don’t know what that would be.  After that, I did some more work on project two and am just struggling to figure out how to get it where it needs to go, plot-wise – that’s the tricky thing that I don’t know if I’m good enough to pull off.  We shall see.  Then I had a couple of telephonic conversations, then sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I finished watching Who Was That Lady, starring Mr. Dean Martin, Mr. Tony Curtis, and Miss Janet Leigh, all looking like they’re having a good deal of fun with the silly plot and boy is it silly.  As I mentioned, I thought it was a laugh riot seeing it when it came out – it doesn’t really hold up very well and Norman Krasna is simply not one of my favorite comedy writers.  But there are amusing things in it and it’s ably directed by George Sidney, but it’s way too long for its own good, almost two hours.  The ending, especially, is labored and goes on too long.  The actor who actually comes off best because he underplays everything, is the wonderful James Whitmore.  He’s just terrific.  After that, I watched the main titles of a French movie from France, entitled Stavisky.  I’ve had this DVD since it came out and have never watched it.

I did see it when it came out – I was in New York at the time, working, and saw it because of the Stephen Sondheim score, and directly after leaving the theater I found a record store in mid-town that carried import LPs and they’d thankfully just gotten in the French LP of the soundtrack, which I snapped up.  That was in January of 1974 (it opened in New York the last week of December).  I flew to New York to rehearse Forget-Me-Not Lane for the PBS taping, and I had lots of free time when they didn’t need me, and that was the first movie I saw on that trip.

The other movies I remember seeing on that trip were Amarcord and a little something called The Godfather II.  I also went to the theater a lot on that trip, seeing Pippin several times (I was obsessed with it, frankly), Equus with Anthony Hopkins and Peter Firth (lovely house seats thanks to Firth’s understudy, Tom Hulce, who was in Forget-Me-Not Lane with me.  And a terrible play by Murray Schisgal called All Over Town, directed horribly by Dustin Hoffman.  It somehow managed around 230 performances because the horrid Clive Barnes gave it a rave in the Times.  It did have a good cast, though – Barnard Hughes, Jill Eikenberry, Polly Holliday, Cleavon Little, Barney Martin, and a few others you’d know. But that wasn’t the only terrible play – there was also Neil Simon’s God’s Favorite which, despite excellent performances from Vincent Gardenia and Charles Nelson Reilly, and direction by Michael Bennett, was pretty much a disaster.  I may have seen other musicals, but perhaps I didn’t because of seeing Pippin four times. Ah, I looked up the season and I also saw The Wiz in its first week of playing and when it had posted its closing notice – they found some money, did a TV spot, and turned it into a success.  The night I saw it, a Monday, Angela Lansbury was there on her night off from Gypsy.  And then I saw Shenandoah, which I found a real snooze-fest.  So, looks like I had a grand time on that trip, and I know I ate out every night at one great place after another.  That’s because I was not only making decent money but had a nice per diem to spend every day.  And it was on that trip that I got the very good news that The First Nudie Musical had gotten its financing and that we’d be going into production the month after my return.  My goodness, I went off on quite a tangent.  I was blown away by that tangent, frankly.  I hadn’t thought about any of that in years.

After that, it was more listening, another telephonic conversation and the rest you know.  Now playing: the Mahler symphony no one seems to “get” – the seventh.  I’ve always liked it a lot, but what do I know about a piece of Mahler’s?

Today, I’ll be up when I’m up, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’ll work on project two, I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, I’ll eat (tacos today), and then at some point I’ll watch, listen, and relax.

The rest of the week is more of the same and I hope to make some good progress on project two – either that or abandon it, although I don’t know that I’ve ever actually abandoned a project that I began.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up when I’m up, do whatever needs doing, work on project two, hopefully pick up some packages, eat tacos, then watch, listen, and relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: What was a truly memorable week seeing theater and films that you especially remember because it was truly memorable?  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, still being blown away by Mr. Klemperer’s Mahler.

Search BK's Notes Archive:
 
© 2001 - 2020 by Bruce Kimmel. All Rights Reserved