A TALK WITH ERICH KLEIBER ABOUT HIS RECORDINGS
(La Prensa, Argentina; October 6,1929)
We could not imagine that Erich Kleiber, one of the most valued conductors making records wouldn't think much about the phonograph. He is very far from the enthusiasm shown by many of his colleagues, but that does not prevent his recorded output to include such interesting works as Smetana's Moldau; Mozart's Dances and Stravinsky's Firebird, which we have reviewed favorably.
On occasion of his actual visit to Buenos Aires we had a talk with him about his feelings and opinions regarding recording. He receives us in his apartment at the Plaza Hotel. As we talk he walks from one side to the other of the room.
- We have just heard your Firebird - we said to begin the conversation - It's really good. Is it a long time since you began making records?
- Yes - answered Kleiber - since the first stages of the phonograph, when we had to play in front of a big horn, with a small orchestra, five or six first violins in all. It took great pains to put on wax any work! How much effort and rehearsals to get a good record!
- Which record did you make at that time?
- I don't remember now. These were for the Vox label.
- Yes, it's different. We make a record as we wish, with the full orchestra, as in a concert and the microphone picks up the sound.
- Leaving aside the records we know: which other works have you recorded?
- Several ones. I do not record exclusively for any label, but make records for five or six of them. For Victor I have finished Mozart's E flat Symphony that has already arrived in Buenos Aires, and three Viennese waltzes, with the Vienna Philharmonic in their old and beautiful concert hall. For Polydor I've recorded Beethoven's Second Symphony and Dvorak's New World Symphony. Now they've asked me for the Ninth Symphony, a Mozart cycle and a few others... But I do not have enough time. With the theatre, the concerts, the travels, there's little time for recording left.
- It's a tiresome work making records, isn't it?
- Certainly. Each performance must be heard, repeated, corrected several times. It's a very heavy work.
- Now - shall we ask - what is your opinion about the phonograph?
- I like it very much - says Kleiber, not very convinced. - It's interesting, but still very imperfect. Slow tempi and pauses do not come out well. For example at the beginning of the Tristan prelude, after the first sigh of the cellos, there's a silence written by Wagner. It is not possible to do it on records. Instead of silence you hear the needle noise. Another example is Strauss' Don Juan, after the fortissimo, there's a long silence, a "vuota" meant to be a big contrast. You cannot get that on records. It's a silence without any sense.
- But those faults are being corrected.
- Yes, they're being corrected - repeats Kleiber, again without much conviction, - but the bad thing about a record is that it fixes forever a certain performance, a unique emotional moment when, really never two musical performances are the same. One day I feel music in a way, next day it's otherwise. Which is the true one that should remain on the record? It's a matter of state of mind. Blood doesn't flow every day at the same speed. A record fixes that which is versatile, the living thing.
- This will make the artist have to search "his" day to record...
- No, that's impossible. It will always be a certain moment in the artist's life, and he is the opposite of any fixed rule.
- So you make records without really believing in them?
- I like it, I like it, but it is more than simple entertainment. On records one misses the rapport between the public and the artist, that understanding, that spiritual communication which creates an emotional atmosphere, an "astral atmosphere", as a theosophist would say.
- It will never be compared to music at a concert hall - continues Kleiber, not giving any time to contradict him. - A record is canned music. If I want to eat asparagus, I'll try to get fresh ones, and if I can not get them, then I'll eat canned asparagus. A record is that, canned music. A man who only listens to records in a phonograph and does not go to concerts is like one who only eats canned meals. And it's good for people to eat fresh food. Now, if we were in winter and we could not get any fresh food, then we should get the records and open the phonograph. But the concert is indispensable.
- As a musical education for people?
- It's very useful to the artist and the singer. In twenty or thirty percent of the cases a record will be an authentic document of the way Strauss or Stravinsky have played their own music. For the singer it's very useful. I learn from Caruso's records his method of breathing. You see?
- What do you think of your own records?
- They entertain me, I like them. I present them to some of my good friends. I have friends who live in the mountains, in far away villages. When I visit them I take my records with me and they are always well received, with enthusiasm. Thus, the recall what we have done is there, and this refreshes us, they are very useful.
- Is that all?
- That's it for the moment. But I believe in the technical development of the phonograph. In Germany we are recording a lot, especially with English sound producers. They're the best experts in this field...
2. Erich Kleiber - In Memoriam
3. The Great Maestro
4. A Talk With Erich Kleiber About His Recordings
5. Vienna Years And Records
6. Carlos Kleiber - The Myth Carlos
7. The Enigma Carlos Cleiber
8. The Son Of A Minor God
9. The Maverick
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