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BBC Radio Program “Who Was Carlos Kleiber?”

originally broadcast 9/26/2009.


UA (unidentified announcer)
IH (Ivan Hewitt)
PD (Placido Domingo)
CB (Charles Barber)
PJ (Sir Peter Jonas)
CLM (Christine Lemke-Matvey)


UA: [0:00] “But first, with the time at a quarter past 12, we turn to the great conductor, Carlos Kleiber, who died 5 years ago, aged 74. He was one of the most mysterious and maverick conductors in musical history, his rare concerts treated almost like religious events by his fervent admirers. But very few people knew much about the man behind the baton. In our Saturday music feature this afternoon, Ivan Hewitt asks ‘Who was Carlos Kleiber?’, talking to, among others, Placido Domingo (PD).”

PD: [0:31] “Carlos was the greatest conductor, the greatest musician I have ever met.” [Opening of Beethoven’s Symphony #5 playing in background]

PJ: “One of his greatest talents was seducing people musically.”

PD: “Carlos was able to find out everything.”

CB: “His was charisma, beyond any human definition of it.”

CLM: “His eyes said ‘I know everything.’”

IH: [1:25] “The voices of Placido Domingo, Christina Lemke-Matvey, Charles Barber, and Sir Peter Jonas, on the extraordinary conductor Carlos Kleiber. The word ‘genius’ is one people often apply to Kleiber and that’s a word that might seem just too strong for a mere conductor. But when it comes to this man, there’s really no avoiding it. So many people who saw Kleiber and worked with him insist that he was in a class of his own. He inspired performers to heights they didn’t think they could reach and in audiences he inspired a special kind of excitement that bordered on ecstasy. Over the next 45 minutes, I’ll be trying to get a little bit closer to the mystery that was Kleiber in the company of four people who knew him well.”

“Kleiber isn’t one of those conductors who made a dazzling debut when he was very young and then spent a lifetime at the top. He actually started in a very modest way, in Potsdam in the early fifties, and then proceeded slowly up the conducting ladder with jobs at Düsseldorf, Zurich, and Stuttgart. Up to this point he was really following in his father, Erich Kleiber’s footsteps, who had had a successful career over many decades. The elder Kleiber had in fact left Germany in 1930, disgusted with the Nazi regime, and settled temporarily in Argentina. That’s why his son bears a Spanish name. But it was only after his stint as music director at Stuttgart ended in 1968 that the mystique of Carlos Kleiber really began. His rare performances, particularly at the Munich Opera acquired a legendary reputation, based almost as much on absence as presence. In later life, he really was ‘the vanishing conductor,’ turning down far more offers from orchestras and opera houses than he ever accepted. Those who were lucky enough to see him, or work with him, were almost always bowled over. One of the many musicians who reveres Carlos Kleiber is Placido Domingo. The ‘Otello’ they performed together is now the stuff of operatic legend.”

PD: [3:06] “Carlos was a conductor that was able to find out everything in the score, everything that perhaps most conductors haven’t. He was that kind of musician that will change night after night. He was living every second, and you know that you have to be ready because he was, he was improvising and this [sic] was the magical evenings, every performance was different to [sic] the other one. His imagination, his ability to really use both hands, the independence of the right and the left, giving us everything, everything that was possible for every instrument.”

IH: [3:54] “Placido Domingo. Another musician for whom Carlos Kleiber has practically God-like status is the conductor Charles Barber. He first encountered Kleiber’s extraordinary talent in very unusual circumstances. He was doing some walking with a friend and had checked into a hotel. He switched on the television and was idly channel-hopping when something seized his attention.”

CB: [4:13] “It was astonishing. It was all eloquence and control and, paradoxically, all freedom and all intimate speech. I’d had no idea who this conductor was, not a clue. But I had never seen anyone enchant an orchestra, nor inform an audience, like this man. I watched with slack-jawed amazement at what this conductor was doing. Only at the end did I find out that it was Carlos Kleiber, whose name I recognized but whose work I had never seen. When I got back to Stanford I spoke to my teacher. I told him what I had seen, and he smiled and said ‘Oh, you’ve finally seen Carlos Kleiber have you?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I want to study with him.’ And he laughed and laughed and said, ‘You want to study with Carlos Kleiber? Are you mad?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve seen what he does. How do I reach him?’ And he laughed again and said, ‘No one reaches him. He’s a complete hermit. He’s totally unavailable. He doesn’t have an agent, he doesn’t have a manger, he never gives press conferences, he cancels more often than he ever appears, you’re out of luck.’ And I said, ‘How do I reach him?’ So he proposed that I get in touch with Caroline Weber at Columbia Artists, told her my story, and I said, ‘If I were to write a letter to him and send it to you, would you be so good as to forward it for me?’ And she said, ‘OK, I will but I have to tell you, he won’t answer. He doesn’t even answer our letters.’ Which of course prompted me to think that a conductor as great as Carlos Kleiber must get letters from people all the time, asking to study with him, to learn from him, to figure out how it was he made the miracles he made on the podium. And what I concluded was two things: that first of all, most of the letters that he gets were probably entirely sycophantic, written by people wearing knee-pads, a reflux of self-interest. And the reason I further deduced that he must have been appalled to get such letters was by studying more closely his films, and I’ve looked at them very closely and realized something that everyone knows who ever looked at what Kleiber did: the man had a fantastic sense of humor. And so I decided to write him a funny letter. I worked on it for a fair bit, and then I sent it off to Caroline Weber. She kept her word and forwarded it to him, and about two weeks later I arrived home one night and there was a letter in the mail box in a hand I did not recognize, with no return address, postmarked Munich, and my hand, ridiculously, started to shake. I opened the letter and sure enough, two pages, hand-written, and Kleiber said, ‘No. I’ve never had a student, I don’t want a student. No, my degree’s in chemistry. Your degree’s in music. I should learn from you. Perhaps I should study with you.’ Although he had said ‘no,’ I got the powerful impression that if I were to write again, he would answer again. And he did, and he did, and he did. There are about 200 letters and postcards and faxes, uh cartoons, drawings, uh musical examples that he sent over the years, beginning in 1989. I have kept all of them. I wrote to Carlos, he answered. And that’s how it began.”

IH: [7:31] “Charles Barber. It wasn’t just musicians who were seduced by Kleiber’s charisma. Christine Lemke-Matvey is a music critic now writing for Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin. She had written a scathing review of a singer and had received a sack load of hostile letters in response. But among them was an anonymous fax written in support of her position. It was only years later that she realized the anonymous faxer was none other than Carlos Kleiber. And the two of them struck up an unlikely friendship by letter. Finally they got to meet in person, and Christine recalls that the circumstances were typically eccentric.”

CLM: [8:01] “When we met he was very hysterical and nervous. This was a morning in Gran Canaria in his hotel suite, actually. He has [sic] changed the location several times before, and in the end we ended up in his suite. And this was a date of maybe one and a half or two hours. And during all this time he was looking for his credit card. And this was really shaking him. He was, well, of course we were talking to each other and about music, and about critics, and about other conductors, and about Beethoven and so on, but mainly he was dealing with his credit card. This was Carlos: not being there but also being there. He was a very ambiguous and very ambivalent personality. And on the third hand, he was the most, really most intelligent person I’ve ever met in my life. There was something in his eyes which said ‘I know everything, but I don’t talk about everything.’ And this was something which I really adored and loved.”

CB: [08:59] “His eyes, the way his eyes controlled a room and a person, without meaning to do so, but effectively doing so, was really quite astonishing. His was charisma beyond any human definition of it. You could not take your eyes off him. You simply could not. It would be like watching Richard Burton; no one else need bother be on stage when Burton was speaking, it was simply pointless. And in fact when I watched ‘Otello’ — I watched it on a Monday and a Friday at the Met — when I actually saw him work, I began to think it was a bit unfair to Domingo and Ricchiarelli and Diaz, because no one was watching them, they were only watching Carlos.”

PD: “One of the unbelievable things that I remember is to see the public at the beginning of ‘Otello.’ He was conducting and I was about to come to sing the ‘Esultate,’ I was going from the side of the boxes in Covent Garden and I could see that nobody was paying any attention to the stage. Everybody was looking at Carlos, what he was doing. And that’s really unbelievable. And that was really so special that the people they were captivated, they were really, absolutely hypnotized by what Carlos was doing, and that I will never forget as long as I live, you know. “

IH: [10:24] “Placido Domingo. Sir Peter Jonas, who was intendant of the Munich Opera in the 1990’s, first encountered Kleiber as a young man when he was director of artistic administration at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

PJ: “We struck a friendship, it became a correspondence friendship, and then we used to see each other from time to time when I was in Europe and eventually I worked very slowly on getting him to Chicago. And one person who helped me was the Music Director, Georg Solti. And Georg and I were working very closely, and Georg had a somewhat fiery reputation, but he was very, very tolerant. And I, one day, bought him a recording, ’75 I think it was made, or ’74, of Carlos conducting the ‘Fledermaus Overture.’ And Solti looked up from his desk and said, ‘it’s much too fast, much too fast, much too fast, must be a young boy, a young firebrand, it’s too fast. But it’s interesting, it’s fascinating.’ [Fledermaus playing in background.] And he listened to it again and again and again, and he said, ‘You know, you’re right, you must try and get him, and do whatever it takes.’ And the Orchestra president also said ‘do whatever it takes,’ so I had a kind of carte blanche about frequent trips to Europe and flying over Carlos’ family to make sure that that début was possible….[more of Die Fledermaus overture] [13:11] By the time the engagement happened, his reputation had exploded, become esoteric, this extraordinary conductor in Europe who doesn’t conduct. You know one of these people who made himself completely rare, by saying, you know, ‘the great genius who will not conduct,’ …doesn’t conduct, will not conduct, doesn’t want to conduct, money doesn’t interest him (even though it had to be a lot), and the reputation somehow filtered through. So, when he was engaged he was unknown, when he came he was very well known. And of course the concerts came in for tremendous scrutiny, before the music managers from New York, Ronald Wilford, the director of the Met, everybody came, you know, every orchestra intendant in America came. When Carlos arrived, he arrived about a week before the first rehearsal, unlike most conductors, of course he was so nervous, so frightened, as he always was, jittering really, spent the last two or three days of spare time going into the library and with his own material which he had sent ahead of time, checking that the librarians had marked every single bowing exactly as he wanted it, from his master part. And he wanted unequal bowings. These days, when people watch orchestras at the Proms, they’re all bowing the same way. Carlos didn’t like this. He didn’t want the first violins and the second violins to bow all the same way; he wanted the first desk to bow one way, the second desk to bow the other way. So the bowings were all different, which he thought would create a seamless sense of legato. And he was passionate about all little signs, and hieroglyphics in the parts, indicating here ‘Smile,’ in the cello parts ‘Smile.’ Well, when the first chair, grey-haired, eminent, émigré players of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — there’s no age limit to players of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – came to the first rehearsal, they’d got the parts beforehand and some of them took them very seriously and others got furious, including Frank Miller, who had been Toscanini’s first cellist [in] the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Frank took his part home and rubbed out Carlos’ markings. And then, when the first rehearsal happened [15:26] Freischutz Overture playing in the background] Carlos started with the Weber ‘Freischutz Overture’ and it was wonderful. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was very competent in this kind of thing and they were expecting this esoteric maestro and they were going to show him how good they were. So the first thing he said was ‘Well, now, it’s not right.’ And he started to explain that they should imagine a Kaspar David Friedrich [sic] painting, and the mists arising from behind the trees of the forest, at which point Dale Clevenger, the legendary first horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, put his hand up and said, ‘Maestro.’ ‘Yes, Mr. Clevenger,’ – Carlos had learned all their names – and he says, ‘Can I ask you a question?’ ‘Yes, Mr. Klevinger.’ ‘Do you mean louder?’ He said, ‘Yes, Mr. Clevenger.’ [Freischutz excerpt from 16:07 to 17:26]. [17:27] I mean I remember he had talked to me about the ‘Freischutz’ overture when the main theme comes. In the first rehearsal he ever had with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, they started ‘yam, diddle-diddle, yam, diddle-diddle yam, diddle-diddle yam, da…’ and he wanted it to be very hesitant. And so he said, ‘Look, don’t try and play it together. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was so used to Solti, and even Giulini, telling them to play together, that they couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but he was speaking in their language: ‘Don’t try and play together. I’m just going to bring my hand down, from up above, slowly and you will come in when you feel like it. And then it will be alright.’ And he did and it was alright. It just felt as if the main theme was stealing in the sound, and that was the effect he wanted and he got it. But these were very unconventional methods to an orchestra like the Chicago Symphony.”

“One has to remember at the same time he was a great classicist. He believed in the structures of Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Beethoven, you know. He believed in the classical repertoire. And that first concert was a miraculous performance. Most people were convinced and if they weren’t convinced, they were at least seduced, which was another one of his great talents, of seducing people musically and making them so thrilled that here was a conductor who could bring them into the music in a way no other conductor could, because he brought literature into play, he brought psychology into play, he brought his own personality into play.”

IH: [18:57] “Sir Peter Jonas. So it seems as if at this stage in his career Carlos Kleiber had it all: tremendous native gifts, total freedom, and an adoring public. And yet, not everything was perfect in the garden.”

PJ: [19:08} “He was always absolutely in panic before a concert. I mean, this happened throughout his career, whether it was an orchestra concert, whether it was an opera performance, he was in panic. He was scrupulously prepared, scrupulously rehearsed, he demanded rehearsal conditions that nobody else had. Even in the opera, players couldn’t change their seat. He was so prepared, over-prepared if you like, but in panic. He would be in the dressing room before a rehearsal, three hours before, before a performance three or four hours before, and would live in the opera house or the orchestra hall and soak up the atmosphere, working himself up into a frenzy of fear, panic and paranoia.”

IH: [19:53] “But that seems to have vanished the moment he arrived on the podium.

PJ: “I don’t think so.”

IH: “I mean, from the outside…”

PJ: “From the outside, but I don’t think so. I think, players would say you could feel this febrile nervousness. But that febrile nervousness very often added to the intensity of the performance and added to the intensity of the sound he wished to achieve.”

CB: “He didn’t think he was any good.”

IH: “Charles Barber.”

CB: “He knew full well what the world thought of him. He was well aware of the esteem in which he was held in the music profession and in the musical world generally. You know full well what his fees were, how rarely he worked, relatively speaking. In a 50-year career he conducted, by my count, a grand total of 96 concerts and approximately 400 performances in opera. That’s all, in 50 years. Toscanini would do that in one year. And one of the reasons was this urgent element and qualification of self-doubt. Nothing he ever did reached what it was he had already reached in that extraordinary mind of his. And I came to realize, as I got to know him better and as I would study a score with him, as I would look at a chord and the way in which it would line up, a color and the way in which it presented itself, a timbral interest or a tonal interest. And I began to realize that one of the mysteries of Carlos and one of the elements of self-doubt within Carlos as a human being, and as a supreme conductor, was that he simply heard differently. He heard the world and, most particularly, the musical world differently. I’m not sure that I can annotate the differences. But I know that, if, for example, when I was studying ‘Rosenkavalier’ with him, and we would come across a particular chord, just any old chord, that had one of Strauss’s typically brilliant enunciations, in terms of instrumentation, Carlos would point to an instrument and say, ‘Do you hear that? Do you hear that? Do you understand what that means? Do you know why he chose that instrument?’ And I would be able to answer in a reasonably professional but ordinarily pedestrian kind of way, and he would sometimes get a little mad and he would say, ‘But, but, but,..don’t you understand why the second clarinet is playing that note?’ He had a way of conceiving music, as he lifted it from the page, as he engrained it in his own musical consciousness, which then took the form of an enormously powerful internal hearing. But his problem, his frustration, his anxiety, is that no matter how great the orchestra – Berlin, Vienna, Concertgebouw, Chicago, name it – no matter how great the orchestra, none of them, none of them, in any way, met what he had already heard as he studied the score. And this was for him a matter of immense frustration, immense. And so he doubted himself, and so as time went on he conducted less and less and less. And it is not because he was lazy – people sometimes say that and they make jokes or they don’t know what they’re talking about – he worked very hard. It is because, I think, more and more he was less enamored of the profession and less enamored of his gift within it.”

PD: “I said, ‘Carlos, why don’t you work more, you know?’

IH: “Placido Domingo.”

PD: “And he said, ‘I’m happy with what I do, you know me, I’m demanding, and people won’t be as prepared as they should, and so I prefer not to work that much. I prefer now and then to take my rest.’ The big, big tragedy and loss for the world of music is that he was not working so much. I said, ‘Carlos, can you come next month to conduct?’ ‘Where?’ ‘Los Angeles.’ ‘Ahh…I…it’s so far.’ Everything that you ask him he will say ‘no.’ So, it was his own choice. He really picked his own destiny, you know. Absolutely, absolutely.”

CLM: [24:08] “I think he was manic-depressive. There were phases in his life where he was really on top, and really being, being quite convinced of himself and, and quite arrogant to the rest of the music world. And there were phases, which probably have been the longer ones, um…where he was utterly depressed and not able to move or to conduct or to do anything. So this was, I think, really, really, well, a hard thing to cope with.”

IH: [24:39] “Christine Lemke-Manvey. So perhaps it’s hardly surprising that through the 1970s and 80s, Carlos Kleiber conducted less and less. By the 1990s he’d become a virtual recluse, rarely venturing out from his modest home in Munich, that he shared with his wife, the Slovenian dancer, Stanka Brezovar. When he did emerge, his demands in terms of rehearsals and fees became ever more eccentric. He once demanded and received a brand new Audi worth £100,000 for a single concert. For some people this is a sign of a willful and self-indulgent character. But for Charles Barber it is simply the flip side of his endless search for perfection.”

CB: [25:15] “Sometimes those elements of his creation may have seemed, to
ordinarily minded people, as somewhat unusual. But they weren’t unusual at all – if you understood the premises upon which he worked. And those premises were eloquence and life and passion and analysis, and total control and total release at the same time. He lived in the heart of that paradox and he made it work. It was, admittedly, for him, though, and perhaps for anyone, exhausting. It was sometimes deeply exhausting for him to try to do all of those things at once, and do them across the 36 rehearsals, for example, that he once got for a particular project of his. You know mortals like you and me would be likely to get three or four rehearsals. Carlos once time actually got 36 orchestra-only rehearsals for a project. And then, by the way, he canceled. But he only cancelled – and if I may deal with this because it too has I think been grossly distorted – he only cancelled when someone else failed to keep their word. And when they failed to keep their word, Carlos took the view that he was no longer obligated to keep his. And, indeed, he would walk [away]. But to imagine that Carlos did this willfully or capriciously or childishly or mindlessly is complete rot. It’s absolute rot. And I know it’s so because he told me. The man’s center of gravity about the making of music was so bedrock, it was so in the heart of the earth that he occupied, that he would not be pulled off it by anyone or anything. His frustrations could quickly rise to the surface if he felt that people were not investing or engaging as heavily and as enormously as he did. You may know that his famous recording of ‘Tristan’ is a recording that he never approved, and in some ways a recording that he never finished. It’s a recording that was cobbled together by the producer, because the producer kept the tape recorder running all the time. Carlos in fact was furious with his recording company that the record ever came out. He never approved it. It is in fact, though, most people would agree, one of the all-time great recordings of ‘Tristan.’ He understood how to ignite the stillness in a way that no other conductor ever came close to. Even his beloved Furtwangler never came close to the quality of ignition that Carlos could bring to that work.”

[from 28:00 to 29:28 an excerpt from ‘Tristan’ plays]

IH: [29:29] “Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ in Carlos Kleiber’s famous recording. Behind the anxieties and traumas of Carlos Kleiber’s life looms the domineering figure of his conductor father. [Excerpt of Erich Kleiber conducting ‘Die Blaue Donau’ plays.] Erich Kleiber never approved of his son’s musical ambitions and insisted that the young Carlos study chemistry. In later years, as Charles Barber recalls, his father remained a touchy subject.”

CB: [30:28] “Carlos had very mixed feelings about his father; I think that was well known. And ah, so I didn’t wish to trespass. In fact, I had been advised, at the beginning of our correspondence never, to raise the subject, ever.“

IH: “Do you think it may have been something to do with feeling that perhaps, as a professional, he, in some way, didn’t measure up to his father, who was a conductor in a more traditional line, was constantly working and gave hundreds of concerts?”

CB: “I think by the ordinary measure of a career, his father had the bigger career. But I think by the standards of anyone who knew how to read what the son actually did, on the podium the son was the greater, deeper, more moving musician. And I think that part of that must have hurt him and been a peculiar paradox whose nature he never wholly resolved, if he even tried to resolve it.”

PJ: “It’s no coincidence…

IH: “Sir Peter Jonas”

PJ: “…that the pieces he actually performed were pieces that his father performed a lot. One of his kind-of-almost-like Bibles at his house were his father’s scores and parts, which he studied all through his life, and restudied and revived. And he worshipped the recordings of his father, even the ‘Pop’ recordings of the Berlin Philharmonic, playing ‘Pop’ overtures in Berlin in the 1930s and so on. And he worshipped, worshipped, worshipped, worshipped his father. His father had always said to him ‘you shouldn’t be a conductor, you can’t be a conductor, I forbid it, you should learn something sensible, and it hasn’t done me any good in my life; don’t become a conductor.’ So he went off to study chemistry in Zurich, and was going to have a life as a chemistry [sic] or even perhaps go into medicine, and without his father’s knowledge studied music.”

CLM: “Erich Kleiber died in the midst of the fifties, and these were Carlos’ very early days, performing under a pseudonym. He used to name himself Karl Keller. This was in Potsdam, even before he went to Düsseldorf and all the other early locations of his career. So, right from the beginning onwards, he had obviously the feeling to hide and not to be the son of his father because he thought this could be dangerous. There was always a shadow and there was always something which hindered Carlos to be [sic] really free and to be really free of his father. Erich Kleiber died quite early and this was difficult as well because I think he couldn’t discuss the whole matter out. They were not ready with each other, I think.”

PD: [33:09] “The father’s character was easier, you know, he probably in a way want[ed] to have the character of the father, you know. He asked me ‘Placido,’ he said, ‘why can I not be just like you? Why I cannot be just like you?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? You are superior to everyone in the world.’ ‘Did you want to do everything and you could and you enjoy working so much. Why I cannot do that?’ I said, ‘Carlos, that’s my question also, why you cannot,’ you know.”

IH: “Placido Domingo. Carlos Kleiber did eventually receive a career offer which surely would have won his father’s grudging approval. He was offered the chief conductorship of the Berlin Philharmonic after the death of Herbert Van Karajan in 1989. And he refused, which must surely be unique in the annals of conducting history. He did though have a brief association with the orchestra. Charles Barber again.”

CB: [34:05] “In his whole life he conducted in Berlin I think two times. It is absolutely true that after Van Karajan died they asked Carlos to take over and he declined. He served them whisky and cigarettes and sympathy, he received them, but he said ‘no’ immediately. He didn’t want the job. But he did one time agree to do the benefit concert. And he told me about it because, um, he asked me to help acquire yet another score. And he decided he was going to do ‘Coriolanus,’ the Beethoven overture, which as you may know begins with a massive thumping chord, huge. And I asked Carlos how he was going to handle that chord. ‘How do you prepare that? How do you do that without telegraphing your intentions? How do you do it without overdoing it? How do you place it just so? And how, in advance of all of that, do you rehearse and hear it?’ And this is what he told me. He told me to run out and get a particular film of Duke Ellington and watch how Ellington brought his band in, all of them, all at once, with the simultaneity of lightning, and apparently doing nothing. [Extract of Duke Ellington jazz music plays in background.] And that’s what Carlos was looking for. And after the concert he sent me a tape of it. I watched it and saw what he did. And it was, at one level, visible what he had done. But, at another level, like lightning after its effect, it was invisible, although all the power was still there. And he described it in a typically Carlos Kleiber way. He said, ‘With the Berlin Phil and the opening of “Coriolan,” it was like driving into a brick wall at 50 miles an hour in a Rolls Royce.’ That’s how he heard it, that’s how he did it, that’s who he was, that was the musicianship and magicianship of Carlos Kleiber. There was, I think, no other like him.”

IH: [36:16] “That story reveals a side of Kleiber that’s rarely mentioned, his love of language. With a name like Carlos Kleiber you might imagine that Spanish and German would be his most fluent languages. Not so, according to Peter Jonas.”

PJ: [36:26] “English was his mother tongue. People don’t really realize that now, they think he was a German, his mother tongue, which is absolutely not so, he was born and bred in Argentina — not born in Argentina but bred in Argentina and brought up to speak Spanish, but his English from his mother’s side was absolutely wonderful. And he could speak English with a mastery of vocabulary and metaphor that was quite spectacular. Words were as important to him as scores. He was immensely well read in English and also in Spanish, immensely – and also German. He was phenomenally well read, I’ve never met anybody so well read. One of the most well thumbed books that he had at home, which he reread constantly was William Shawn’s History of The New Yorker. In the early period of our friendship, you know, I would get my New Yorkers and post them to him after I’d read them, you know, and he would get them late by ‘snail mail,’ and all the rest. And I remember there was once in The New Yorker, many years ago, a 14-part serial on the aircraft industry, on the manufacture and sales of the Parrow [?] engines. Now that’s a totally useless subject. Who needs to know about all that, how aero engines are built and how they’re sold, you know, separately from airplanes? And this was [ ? ], we used to correspond like mad about these kind [sic] of articles, and the longer the better, the more abstruse the better. He loved The New Yorker. I tried to get him later interested in The Spectator but he found The Spectator too slapdash and too superficial. But he was immensely well read. That’s where his ability as a wordsmith came, and I…A great tragedy to me is not just that there’s not enough music existing in recordings from Carlos Kleiber, but that there’s not enough literature that he wrote, his letters are incredible. They are the best use of metaphor, the way he could strangely misuse language in the most creative way, I find absolutely thrilling to read. He was a tremendous punster, but in the very best and finest sense of the word, quite remarkable, and in three languages: English, German, and Spanish, all of which he could master equally and he was very good in Italian too.”

IH: [38:38] “What was your impression of his amorous life, put it that way, his relationship to his wife? Did you glean a sense of the state of that during your friendship?”

PJ: “Sure, but, you know, it’s a difficult thing to talk about. I mean, I knew her very well and I knew him very well and I knew many of his other girl friends. He was always though very loyal to his wife. At the end of his life, you know, he was always, would always say, ‘Ah Stanka, she knows,’ you know, and he would follow her opinion about people so much more closely and he would trust her a lot. He had a very close relationship with her, even though they didn’t share any of his world in a sense. And when I used to go visit him at home, we would be talking about the world, this and that and the other, and she would cook and that’s it. About twenty years before he died, at Stanka’s insistence, he bought a little cottage in Slovenia and a.…he used to go there in the summers….a very modest little cottage near to the village where she was from. And um…he…they sort of renovated it and made it quite comfortable and they would go there…that was their, that they felt was their real, real hiding place.”

IH: [39:47] “To me, what all these stories show is that this most passionate and heated of men was in a peculiar way like an iceberg. People only saw a fraction of the man. Most of him was hidden away, perhaps only revealed to his family and friends. In the same way, his recorded legacy shows only a fraction of what Kleiber could have given us. The recorded legacy is so small that some people say that Carlos Kleiber does not deserve the title of ‘greatest conductor,’ in fact they wonder whether he deserves the title of ‘conductor’ at all. But this mistakes quantity with quality. We don’t dismiss Elias Canetti because he only wrote one novel, or Alban Berg because he only wrote a dozen works. Like them, Kleiber was a perfectionist, and he only allowed the world to see the handful of works that truly satisfied him. Those who were lucky enough to know him have something else to treasure: Kleiber’s extraordinary human qualities.”

CLM: [40:35] “He was really attractive and I could really understand these many women he had affairs with because he was so bright and he was so…um…being in a rather good mood, I think he could really be ah….well, ‘Don Juan’ is not the right expression, but somebody who’s really the one coming…coming to the world and bringing in light, and the moment he goes away again this light also vanishes.” [excerpt from Carlos conducting Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ plays in background] There was a telephone call from a colleague who had, I don’t know why, studied a home page of the Slovenian Radio and there it said, ‘the conductor Carlos Kleiber died,’ I mean, nearly a week ago. And they were not sure because there has been at least one similar story some years before. And there also has been a fax to Karl-Heinz Rumpf, the chief of [the] Culture and Communication Department at Audi’s [sic], the car maker, and this fax was sent two days before he left for Slovenia, obviously to die, and this fax was really saying ‘goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, I thank you for everything you did for me and God bless you’ and all the rest of that. This was his way of saying, ‘bye, bye, I’m leaving.’ He was said to suffer from a cancer, I’m not sure whether this is true. His wife died six months earlier, and I think he couldn’t cope living without her. And so I’m rather convinced that he went to Slovenia, to this tiny, tiny little…little village to…well, to die. Three weeks after he died, we decided to go to Slovenia. This was a very, very special and very moving journey. It’s really a location in the midst of nowhere. It was rather difficult to find it, and there were only trees and woods and birds and flowers and, on this day, some sunshine as well. This place was so full of peace, this was his rest, this was his place to find some…ja, to find peace and also love. It was the perfect hideaway. The grave, where also his wife was buried, was ready, it was perfect. There was his name put on the headstone and there were the dates of his birth and of his death put on the headstone. Everything seemed absolutely well prepared and absolutely…well in a…ja…perfect as nothing else has ever been perfect in his life. This was again part of the mystery, maybe.”

[Excerpt of poignant orchestral music from ‘La Traviata,’ from 43:56 to 44:41]


Transcribed by Robert McGinn.

Last modified on 12/14/13 23:35

#2  Re: 【音乐会】 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back

Last modified on 12/15/13 00:03

#3  Re: 【音乐会】 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back

Last modified on 12/14/13 23:38

#4  哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back
“ 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯”, 很抒情啊。 和指挥要写克莱伯?

rehearsal 第一回看。 台上看似轻松随意,台下多少功夫。


#5  Re: 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back


云天 wrote: (1/12/2013 15:7)
“ 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯”, 很抒情啊。 和指挥要写克莱伯?
rehearsal 第一回看。 台上看似轻松随意,台下多少功夫。


Last modified on 12/14/13 23:40

#6  Re: 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back
“几乎觉得克莱伯的影像DVD都买了”, wow!


lyz23 wrote: (1/7/2013 13:9)


BBB wrote: (11/10/2012 16:5)
Weber-Der Freischütz Overture-Kleiber (1970)

Last modified on 01/13/13 11:19

#7  哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back




#8  Re: 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back

和谈 wrote: (1/13/2013 17:10)




#9  Re: 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯             Go Back
New year's concert 1992 Carlos Kleiber Wiener Philharmoniker


#10  Re: 哦,卡洛斯 克莱伯 ( July 3, 1930 – July 13, 2004)             Go Back

明天是卡洛斯 克莱伯去世9 周年。

#11  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back


#12  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back


Last modified on 12/15/13 00:04

#13  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back

Last modified on 12/13/13 15:45

#14  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back
Carlos Kleiber: La Boheme (Puccini) - La Scala 1979 (Complete)


#15  Re: 哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."

#16  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back
这是卡洛斯·克莱伯和他太太的墓地,海拔450米,距离斯洛文尼亚到奥地利边界30公里的一个150个居民的小镇。我觉得这个录像是文献记录性电影《Traces to Nowhere》里面的一个片段,早先有四个片段,可惜现在这个片子网上没有完整的可看了。

Last modified on 07/10/14 07:06

#17  Re: 哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back
Traces to Nowhere



#18  Re: 哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back


1987年的暑假,在旧金山到洛杉矶的林间道上,两个斯坦福音乐系的同学骑着自行车旅行。他们带着行囊,一路以露宿为主,偶尔也在旅店过夜。就在那个晚上,他们被电视节目里的交响音乐会指挥的动作所吸引住了,演奏结束后他们才知道那个指挥是奥地利指挥家卡洛斯·克莱伯(Carlos Kleiber 1930年7月3日-—2004年7月13日)。

回家以后,那个指挥专业的巴伯同学(Charles Barber) 开始收集、阅读和观看有关克莱伯的文字和影像材料。他太喜欢克莱伯了,他想跟他联系,希望能够成为他的助手,跟他学指挥。一年半之后,经纽约哥伦比亚艺术家管理公司转交,他寄给克莱伯的第一封信终于发了出去。克莱伯没有接受巴伯的请求,但是他们开始了通信。2011年底,已经是温哥华城市歌剧院艺术总监的巴伯把他和克莱伯通信积集成《与卡洛斯的通信》一书出版,(Corresponding with Carlos——A Biography of Carlos Kleiber) 让世人看到了那个神情腼腆而且似乎不太自信的指挥大师敏感、幽默又轻松的另一面。





2004年7月19日,世界各主要通讯社从斯洛文尼亚获知,古典音乐指挥大师卡洛斯·克莱伯已经去世。第二天,法国《费加罗报》登出了《哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世!》这么一个满带惊愕和愧意的新闻标题。然而,让所有知道他并且关爱他的人更加不愿接受的事实是,这位指挥家在三天前已经悄然下葬了——葬 于7个月前先他而去妻子的故乡:一个紧挨奥地利的前南斯拉夫联邦的小村镇里了。

这真是一个可以追随但却不让靠近的人!在我们普通人的生活中,某些公众人物,比如艺术家,作家,诗人的去世会让人有如失去自己亲人一般,有时甚至比自己的直系血亲还要悲痛。因为通过作品,他们无保留地向世人敞开心扉,让人随意走入他们的灵魂,给人们带来精神动力、欢愉和享乐,让人感觉随时都在和他们交流、分享自己的情绪和感受,这样就会有一种心理认同。克莱伯就是这样一位人物。克莱伯去世后他的姐姐这样描述她的这个弟弟:“指挥带给他的是一种完全不同于他日常生活的环境和感觉。舞台上他看上去兴高采烈,激情无限,热力四射,甚至有点疯狂,像一个青春期的少年。” 当我听到他去世的消息,回想他舞台上的气质风度,他指挥作品的完美精致,内心里的失落便油然而生,哀痛而难以遏止。

克莱伯在年轻时没有尊从也是指挥家的父亲(Erich Kleiber)的意愿,执拗地选择以指挥为业。可是成名之后却拒绝任何乐团常任指挥的职位。他一辈子不用经纪人,不收一个学生,几乎没有接受任何采访。他选择非常非常少的曲目演出,只授权发行非常有限的音像制品;60岁之后每年平均几乎只演出一场,70岁后则完全隐居。如果说当年莫扎特被草草地葬在维也纳一个无名墓地多少是由于当时客观条件使然,那么现在的克莱伯则是他有意选择了这种与世俗,与自己的身名,与他留下巨大声誉的这个音乐世界隔绝的做法。他全然不顾这个世界上那么多崇拜者、仰慕者的思念、牵挂,最后连让人写一张卡,送一束花,写几个字去表达一下哀思的机会都不给。但我同时想到,他的这种独特的行事方式也造就了他与众不同艺术理念和指挥风格。


1954年,是他职业指挥生涯的开始。为了避免因父亲的名声而可能受到的格外的关注,他在节目单上使用了Karl Keller这个化名。从波茨坦那第一场排练开始,据当时的演奏员回忆,年轻的克莱伯一点都没有初登舞台时的拘谨和客套,他们在一起排练了差不多有十次。和多年后一样,克莱伯带着精益求精的态度,经常打断演奏员的演奏,提出自己的意见,因此他一直有“绝不容忍错误的指挥家”这么一个声名。在他几十年非常有限的演出中,他对每一场演出首先考虑艺术上是否达到自己的标准,是否合乎他的期望,任何一场演出他都要力争做到尽善尽美,否则宁肯取消也决不凑合。他那种一丝不苟、宁缺勿滥的境界,是别的更注重效益的指挥家难以达到的。

比如:1974年6月他曾经花了三個小時排练《玫瑰騎士》序曲中80秒钟的一段;在慕尼黑首演歌剧《沃采克》时,他要求排练不少于34次;1979年在伦敦指挥《波希米亚人》,他排练了17次,其中光乐队本身就6次,尽管这个乐队在英国指挥家科林·戴维斯(Sir Colin Davis)的棒下刚刚录制了这部作品。另外一方面,他诚恳地让演奏员感受到,他们在一起排练其实是在一起重新创作。他用的比较多的语句是:你们演奏得真好,我还想再听一遍。有时一天的排练结束后,他会写一些小条子悄悄留在乐手的乐谱上,比如:下次这里可以再明亮一些,等等。排练场上他不说:不,不行,还不行。


2010年11月,英国《BBC音乐杂志》邀请当今100位世界知名的指挥家,发起投票评选20位最伟大指挥家的活动。该评选不设候选人,让每人自由推荐三名,也可以投票给自己。由指挥家评选谁是“最佳”,这个举措非同寻常,这至少可以保证投票者的专业角度和眼光。因为没有候选人,所以投票结果非常分散。让人们不无惊讶的是:一生只指挥了89场(也有统计说是96场;卡拉扬一生指挥了2260场)音乐会的克莱伯荣登榜首,超越了伯恩斯坦、阿巴多以及卡拉扬这些如雷贯耳的大师。对那个结果,不少人以为名至实归 ,我也觉得克莱伯当之无愧。

确实,克莱伯不只是当今古典音乐界成百上千指挥中的一个,在我的标准里,他是近代最优秀、最杰出也最具有天赋资质的指挥家。克莱伯去世后,著名古典音乐评论人、专栏作家,英国人诺曼·莱布雷希特 (Norman Lebrecht) 在他的悼念文章里说:“自19 世纪中期指挥统治音乐以来,还没有哪个人能比克莱伯更完美”。 我以为这里的完美可以是:他的对指挥艺术的追求是完美的;他带给人们的享受也是完美的。



对克莱伯比较关心的乐迷都知道,当他准备公开演出了,那么一定要么是发现了一首新的作品,要么对某个已经熟悉的曲目有了新的发现。德累斯顿国家乐团首席指挥海廷克(Bernard Haitink)评价克莱伯时说:“他比别人更了解他要演出的作品,......他只演出自己感觉有特殊东西要说的歌剧。”这就是为什么即使那些已经被演奏了千万遍的作品——比如贝多芬第五交响曲,克莱伯也能给听众一种焕然一新的感觉。


看过克莱伯指挥的人都会被他与众不同的指挥艺术所打动。在我看来,指挥台上的他,不仅仅是双臂,他身体的每一个关节几乎都已经成为他的指挥元素了。他有时会闭着眼睛,抱着双臂,让头跟着节奏轻轻晃动,俨然一个正在欣赏音乐的局外人;有时他会快速大幅度地弯曲膝盖,然后让身体带动双手慢慢起来,就像孩童在河边戏水;有时他一只手在额头前快速掠动,眼睛相应地跟着移动,仿佛注视一只蜻蜓正从他眼前飞过,......。他在指挥台上的神情和姿态让人看出他已然超神入化,完全融入音乐之美妙境界之中。 有人可能会觉得他那很多很多“元素”早已经超出指挥的常规性动作,可是没有人觉得突兀和做作。他高190公分,那颀长挺拔健硕的身躯,让他在舞台上的所有动作看上去都是那么的自然,协调而没有一点点做作和哗众取宠。


克莱伯的魅力除了“天赋”之外,他一定比别的指挥更留意外在的表演形式——也许只有他才把管弦乐队当作一件“乐器”。克莱伯的化妆师告诉介绍克莱伯生平音乐记录片《了无痕迹》("Traces to Nowhere")的编导:克莱伯曾经承认他一个人时会在镜子前面观察、练习自己的指挥动作,这实在是一个非常有趣的事情。通常,乐队指挥会把怎样“打拍子”放在次要地位,甚至更低的位置去考虑,而克莱伯则把它视为和排练乐队熟练把握乐曲的强、弱、快、慢同样重要,我觉得这是更明智的认识和做法。

实际上,演出时舞台上交响乐队这个“乐器”的音质、音色、音域、音量等等已经通过排练得到保证,当音乐会开始,指挥的作用实际已经变了,与其说他仍然在操控乐队,还不如说他像乐手一样在“弹琴”了 。这样,他的拍子打得如何,在观众眼里就成了那个“琴”弹得怎样。我把这看作是一个指挥在音乐制品二次创作中的第二次创作,这绝对体现外部,而在种外在的表现对观众来说具有更加直接的影响。据三联书店出版的《爱乐》杂志04年第8期中胡欣欣的文章介绍:1994年克莱伯随维也纳国家歌剧院访日演出《玫瑰骑士》时,观众席上出现了大多数人把望远镜对着克莱伯的现象就是一个很好的明证。观赏克莱伯指挥的音乐会,我们既可以获得旋律本身带来的美感,还可以同时享受由克莱伯完美的指挥艺术带来的视觉冲击,这就是他高超的地方。
















Last modified on 07/13/14 08:19

#19  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back
卡洛斯 克莱伯 获奖项目:资料来自网络

Honours and awards:

Cultural Honour of the City of Munich (1978)
Pour le Mérite for Science and Art (Prussia, 1990)
Austrian Medal for Science and Art (1992)[citation needed]
Golden Baton of La Scala (Milan, 1995)
German Record Prize
Bavarian Order of Merit
Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art
Grand Merit Cross with Star of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

1.慕尼黑市文化荣誉奖 (1978) Kultureller Ehrenpreis der Landeshauptstadt München 自1958开始每年授予一位与慕尼黑相关的并且在文化科技领域取得杰出成果的国际知名人士,是慕尼黑市政府能给出的最高荣誉奖。评委通常由头一年得奖者、慕尼黑市市长、文化局的局长、慕尼黑议会五位议员以及五位独立评委选出。

2.蓝马克斯勋章(1990) Pour le mérite für Wissenschaft und Künste 蓝马克斯勋章是普鲁士和德意志帝国军队最高勋章。二战后不区分国籍的颁发给在科学以及艺术领域做出杰出贡献的艺术家和科学家。

3.奥地利共和国科学和艺术荣誉勋章 (1992) Österreichisches Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunst 奥地利共和国授予在科学和艺术领域有做出过杰出贡献的人们的最高勋章。

4.史卡拉歌剧院金指挥棒 (1995) 米兰史卡拉歌剧院授予在歌剧领域才华卓越的艺术家。获此殊荣的第一位非意大利籍大师是2013年2月22日去世的德国指挥家萨瓦里许(Sawallisch),2年后的1995年,小克莱巴被授予该奖项。

5.德国唱片大奖 Deutschen Schallplattenpreis 德国唱片大奖是德国唱片业协会1963年到1992年设立的奖项,是ECHO的前身,唱片的销量作为评奖的主要指标。好玩的是,小克莱巴平生最鄙视痛恨出版的唱片《特里斯坦与伊索尔德》获得该项大赏。

6.拜仁荣誉勋章 Bayerischer Verdienstorden 德国巴伐利亚州最高荣誉奖。每年由巴伐利亚州总理授予,旨在表彰获奖者对巴伐利亚州和巴伐利亚人民做出的杰出贡献。

7.拜仁马克西米兰科学与艺术勋章 (1998)Bayerischer Maximiliansorden für Wissenschaft und Kunst 由巴伐利亚国王马克米西兰二世在1853年11月28日创立,纳粹统治时期该勋章被停止颁授,1980年又重新开始恢复授勋。该勋章要求历届被授勋的人数当年在世人数总和不得超过100人。

8.德意志联邦共和国蓝色大十字星勋章 (1980)Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland也称做德意志联邦共和国勋章,设立于1951年。由德国联邦总统颁发的勋章,用以表彰在德国政治、经济和社会文化方面做出重大贡献的人士。

#20  哦,对不起,我们昨天才知道他去世! (卡洛斯 克莱伯)             Go Back


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