Great! One word, perhaps, suffices to estimate the new conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra.
Superenthusiastic, the audience gave its verdict last night, and it was preponderantly in favor of Otto Klemperer.
Cool judgment may dictate reserve in respect to all things new, but the public of Klemperer’s first concert tossed restraint aside, and thundered applause mingled with cheers. He won by musicianship, authority and well-nigh ideal control over the resources of the orchestra.
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A rugged figure, who is so tall that he needs no platform to stand on to look imposing, he plunged right into the business of program-rendering with scant attention for the eclat and the to-do of an official premiere. He triumphed unquestionably, but he made no popular concessions in doing it. He was presenting music, and he gave to the job the maximum of attention and energy.
If there was such a thing as a depression in the concert, I would say that it was only in the two earlier movements of the Beethoven symphony, following the intermission, but the Allegro and the Finale stunningly redeemed. The Bach Toccata and Fugue, and the Stravinsky Ballet Suite “Petrouchka,” were desirability itself.
We are accustomed to swift judgments today, and that at Philharmonic Auditorium lasting evening was decisive. Recalling a conductor to the stage eight or nine times before the intermission and at the end of the concert assumes the aspect of an event, even here, where popular acclaim occasionally runs rampant.
The swift judgment must, however, eventually give way to perspective, and to the measuring not of a single concert but of an entire season of music. Perhaps, fortune willing, several or numerous seasons.
Klemperer comes here as the most important figure in music yet elected to guide the Philharmonic, and it is to be hoped that he will have the support at the end of the year that was manifested upon his debut. The enterprise needs it, and he deserves it, because, if one misjudges not, he will be able to bring much indeed to stir, to appeal and to inspire by virtue of his interpretations, and the excellence and finish which he will inject into the renditions as given by the competent and experienced aggregations of musicians that come under his jurisdiction.
What W.A. Clark, Jr., has made possible through the years in the way of an organization by diligent endowment, Klemperer may now bring to a new conquering fulfillment. He is well elected and admirable equipped for the obligation, and merits whole-hearted and continued appreciation.
I was caught from the start by the dynamic force of Klemperer, and his apparently high concentration of the duty in hand. That goes undoubtedly with a powerful and towering physique (though not always) and deep-set eyes.
An oddity of human interest was that he had trouble with his spectacles during the concert and once hurled them off completely in taking a bow.
He was eager and on the edge, I would say, for he resented long pauses at the beginning of the concert and fluttered a handkerchief across his brow considerably following the completion of a work.
The knowing and sophisticated ones might attribute all this to showmanship on the part of the conductor, but I am not one to concede that viewpoint. I don’t think Klemperer cares much about showmanship. In fact, one young lady, venturing an opinion within my hearing, opined that she did not think that he was strong on “It,” whatever that might mean.
MORE THAN BEAUTIFUL
Thrusting such cobwebs aside, and going right direct to the point, I am of the opinion that Klemperer disclosed in a multitude of ways last evening qualities which should make for the highest satisfaction over the fact that he is here.
The music as he gave it was more than merely beautiful, it was striking, vigorous, vital, belonging to today.
The Bach proved it almost imperiously. It was one of the noblest things of its kind ever done by the orchestra, rich and magnificent in spirit as well as in tone. The fugue section was memorable.
The Stravinsky ballet was brilliant in effects especially during the Carnival episodes, and the piano part earlier was at times almost magical. Tonal color predominated in this efficiently present composition.
The fine coherence that was discernible in the earlier portion of the program was wanting in the two opening movements of the Beethoven Symphony No. 5—the great symphony. They were most creditably, but not so perfectly done, the pianissimo (really pianississimo-plus) of the allegro was so exquisite and so unusual however, as completely to turn the tide. The final victory was easy after that, with the sweep, the contrasts and the deep melodiousness the Klemperer evoked in the finale.
He is a fine conductor, no question, and welcome here.