For a long time, Testament Records has been doing a great job in churning out previously unissued recordings of many eminent conductors, some with much historical interest and a few with historic significance as well. For this Bruckner enthusiast, Testament's Bruckner CDs and LPs are of immense interest to me. This Easter, two new additions to Otto Klemperer's Bruckner discography appear on this label.
One (SBT2 1477) is Bruckner's 7th coupled with Mozart's 40th, recorded live in November 1965 in Royal Festival Hall, London. No exact date is given. Another (SBT2 1485) is Bruckner's 5th coupled with Schubert's Unfinished, with a given broadcast date of 21 March 1967. Both are with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. All are mono recordings. The copyright of these 2 albums is held by the BBC, and apparently the master tapes are kept in the British Library Sound Archives. Digital remastering was done by Paul Baily at Re:Sound, and Testament paid for the editing and digital remastering.
I'm lucky to have an early listening to these CDs, thanks to the efficient and speedy ordering policy of the local importer, Shun Cheong Record. My early impression is that while these recordings can capture the "magic" of Klemperer on the fly, they also reveal a sort of Jekyll and Hyde nature of Klemperer's interpretative trait. The Seventh is dotted with shards of tempestuous tantrums here and there, and you're given quite a rough ride within and across movements, augmented somewhat by the limitation of the sound in the recording and the widely-known dry acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall. I wouldn't say it is a very charming addition to the many extant Klemperer's Bruckner 7 recordings, but the genuine frisson of the night is well captured and can be felt almost viscerally, for example in the aggressive waves of development in the first movement. It is an unmistakably intense reading.
The Fifth, recorded 2 years later, is a different scene. Klemperer's famed architectural control is evident here. If the Seventh in 1965 represents a manic, or at least hypomanic, level, this Fifth in 1967 symbolises a more neutral mental state, with gleams of brooding in the woodwinds and particularly in the Adagio. It can easily become a loveable part of Klemperer's Bruckner discography. The Schubert Unfinished in another disc is palpably touching. This 2-CD set is one that I would not part with.
The story does not stop here. Testament has given us another talking point, and maybe also a rush of excitement from collectors, in SBT2 1485. They mix up the 2 CDs. Disc 1 is supposed to contain the music of Bruckner 5 and Disc 2 the Unfinished as printed both in the booklet notes and the back inlay. However, what is in Disc 1 is the Schubert and in Disc 2 the Bruckner. I don't know whether they will remedy this in the near future, but if you're a collector of misprinted CDs, go get one as early as you can lest they would soon recall this first batch.
|Testament SBT2 1485|
|The 2 misprinted CDs|
These two double-CD sets have proudly joined their companions in Klemperer's Bruckner CDs as in the following picture:
|Some of Klemperer's Bruckner symphony CDs|
P.S. I've emailed John Berky about this error and he replied that he had passed along this message of misprinted CDs to Testament Records. Hopefully they will remedy this soon, although for me this error will not affect my listening pleasure. After all, what is in a name, or a label in this instance?