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A Performance Doesn't Have To Be "Authentic " To Be Wonderful

  Recently , I've been listening to a three CD set of live recordings by the great German conductor Otto Klemperer (1885 - 1973 ) , who was incidentally the father of the late actor Werner Klemperer of Hogan's Heroes Fame , which I borrowed on library interloan .

  These date from the 1950s and 60s , and  are taken from live performances with  the North German Radio symphony of Hamburg .  In addition to two Mozart symphonies , Beethoven's 7th symphony and Bruckner's
7th ,  you can hear  a performance of  the orchestral suite no 2 by J.S. Bach .

   The performance , from the 1950s , predates the period instrument  recordings of such  well-known
"Historically Informed "conductors as John Eliot Gardiner, Christopher Hogwood , Ton Koopman and others ,
which use  instruments of Bach's time, or replicas thereof, and scrupulously follow all strictures of
musicological research regarding  "authentic" style of performance, by many years , and  would be considered to be hopelessly old-fashioned and stylistically incorrect by many so-called "experts ".

   Instead of the fleet tempos and  light ,clear textures of  the "authentic" performances by today's "up to date" musicians ,  Klemperer begins the suite , with its introduction , which is supposed to be somewhat slower than the main body of the movement , in an extremely slow, broad, weighty, even ponderous manner , almost more like Wagner than in the correct baroque style .  "Wrong ! " ,say the experts . 
"That isn't the correct Bach style at all " !  The rest of the performance is still far from sluggish , but much
more rugged , even  rough hewn than the norm today .

    So what ?  Klemperer  goes his own way and he makes this approach work on its own terms . 
The venerable maestro's later years saw the dawn of the period instrument movement , which was at the time considered a fringe  group ,  and  such musicians as conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt , the harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt and others were  making the first attempts to  reproduce the sound and style of the music of the past as closely as possible . 

   Klemperer's performance of the Bach suite may not be "authentic" in any way, and he was no doubt
fully aware of how old-fashioned his concept of the music was .  But  the grandeur and ruggedness of the performance work on their own terms .  To hell with authenticity !   If the performer  communicates the spirit of the music  vividly to the listeners , who cares about  mere correctness ?


Posted: Dec 19 2011, 06:33 PM by the horn | with no comments
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