Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Beautiful Blue Danube

This is an incredible document. The still-underrated Erich Kleiber (yes, Carlos's father) conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in 1932. Perhaps as much a memento of Weimar Germany as it is of a bygone era of performance (Erich Kleiber was a fierce anti-Nazi who rarely ever returned to Germany after Hitler's rise). Carlos once recounted a story that his father told him 'Never conduct a waltz, it's the most difficult thing in the world to conduct.' But both father and son mastered the waltz as few others ever have and listening to this video you see exactly why. As opposed to the waltz melancolique muzak that performances of Strauss often sound like, this is exactly how Johann Strauss is supposed to sound. No two beats of a Strauss Waltz should ever be exactly alike. The players have to be absolutely alert for every nuance of the music because no music sounds more boring when played on autopilot. It's music that is every bit as commanding and charismatic as any ever written, but it needs performers of equal greatness to come alive.

...and for the hell of it here's Carlos doing the Fledermaus overture with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1989. For anybody who needs to understand why CK might have been the most gifted conductor of the century, just watch. Even of the picture is two beats ahead of the sound, you'll understand almost immediately.

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