Mahler on Beethoven

Mahler on Beethoven

Continuing the focus on Otto Klemperer, we turn to his book about his memories of Mahler, “Minor Recollections”:

“In 1910, during a discussion of Beethoven's ‘Pastoral” in Munich, Mahler expressed strong criticism of academically trained German conductors, who, he said, did not understand the work. ‘How should the second movement—the scene beside the stream—be conducted?’ he asked. ‘If you conduct in twelve-eight, it's too slow. If you conduct in twelve-eight with four beats, it's too fast. How, then?’ He supplied the answer himself: ‘With a feeling for Nature.’…” —Page 25

Ottto Klemperer's Conversion in Cologne

Ottto Klemperer's Conversion in Cologne

The impact of Cologne on Klemperer and the roots of his 1919 conversion:

For the first time in his life he found himself living in a bastion of intellectual Catholicism. The Rhineland was the centre of the liturgical movement, which was opposed a merely personal piety, and in its emphasis on ritual advocated among much else a return to plainsong. … The growing attraction that Catholicism had begun to exercise on Klemperer became apparent during Christmas 1918. To Marianne, the holidays with her brother in Cologne seemed like a ‘weeklong conversion to Christianity’. She had, she wrote to her friend, Leni Asch-Rosenbaoum, listened with real Christian devotion to the carols Otto had played, and also to Bach arias, whose calm spirit she described (doubtless echoing his sentiments) as ‘the purest essence of the German-Christian sprit.’

Immediately after Christmas another potent influence began to make itself felt. In January 1919, Max Scheler, the most celebrated Catholic philosopher of his time, was appointed professor at the newly established university of Cologne and by the following month both Klemperer and his sister had fallen under the spell of the intellectual brilliance of his lectures on the materialist view of history. Marianne found that there was ‘something watchful (lauerndes) and sceptical about him that is hard for me to reconcile with his fervent Catholicism’. But Klemperer was fascinated by a man for whom philosophy was less an abstruse discipline than a means of reflecting on the great issues of life and death. Indeed, it was perhaps the very discusiveness of Scheler’s thinking that appealed to his own untutored mind. Scheler was no proselytiser and he played no direct part in Klemperer’s conversion. But the closeness of these two restless, searching spirits is indicated by the facts that Scheler acted as a witness to Klemperer’s marriage in June 1919 and that the Missa Sacra, which Klemperer composed immediately after his conversion, is dedicated to him.

Early in 1919 Klemperer started to receive instruction from a Jesuit priest and on 17 March he was received into the Church. In one of those self-questioning moods to which he was prone, he later implied that he had taken the step in part as a means of distancing himself from his socialist associates in Cologne as well as from his Jewish background. But all who knew him at this period of his life agree that, in contrast to Mahler who converted in furtherance of his career, Klemperer was inspired by faith and intellectual conviction. Henceforth a belief in the existence of God and the efficacy of prayer conditioned his entire outlook.

Joe's Violin

The Oscar-nominated Short Documentary from The New Yorker featuring Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold, his violin, and the life that it changed upon donation.

Otto Klemeperer and Identity

Otto Klemeperer and Identity

While exploring Otto Klemper: His Life and Times you are quickly drawn into issues of self and family identity. From Page 7:

“In Breslau, where as in most of the cities of Eastern Europe, the Jewish community was still largely intact, the Klemperers' family life was later described by their younger daughter, Marianne, as ‘old-fashioned Jewish’: the Sabbath, feast days and dietary laws were all observed. In Hamburg, however, Nathan found employment in a Christian firm, which involved working on the Sabbath. From this time much religious observance was allowed to lapse. Though Nathan remained a member of a synagogue and observed fasts tot he end of his life, Ida, who had grown up in the less hermetic Jewish world of Hamburg, was deeply imbued with the ideal of assimilation. Yom Kippur was observed by the male members of the family, but dietary restrictions were gradually abandoned and Ida took her young children to a reformed synagogue, where the services were partly in German. On his thirteenth birthday, Otto was formally received into the Jewish faith at the ceremony of the bar mitzvah, but among the books he received as presents on that occasion were the complete works of Shakespeare. There was great emphasis on prayer, but the prayers were German. Grace was said at table in German. Traditional Hebrew songs gave way to German music. There was no mention of Zionism. Nor did Ida send her children to exclusively Jewish schools. Unlike his father, who had been raised in a closed Jewish society in Prague, Otto Klemperer was brought up as a German citizen of Jewish faith, a half-way house that was to fail to withstand the storms of the twentieth century.”

When Otto Klemperer Met Mahler

When Otto Klemperer Met Mahler

“Otto Klemperer was about nine years old when he first saw the man who was to be the central inspiration of his entire life as a musician.

‘I remember as though it were yesterday, seeing Mahler on the street when I was quite small. I was on my way to school. Without anyone pointing him out to me, I knew it was him. At that time he had a habit of pulling strange faces, which made a tremendous impression on me. I ran along shyly after him for about ten minutes and started at him as though he were a deep-sea monster.’

“The schoolboy also noticed that his hero held his hat in his hand and walked with a jerky gait as though he had a club foot. After that initial encounter he frequently saw Mahler, who since 1891 had been First Conductor at the Hamburg Stadttheater and had lived in the west of the city close to the Grindelallee. Two years before his arrival the boy's parents had settled nearby.

“Otto Klemperer's father, Nathan, was a newcomer to Hamburg. Like all his recorded ancestors he had been born in the Prague ghetto. The family name had originally been Klopper, which was derived from Schulklopfer, the synagogue official whose task was to wake members of the Jewish community for early service and its children for school. In 1787, however, as part of the reforming Emperor Joseph II's attempts to integrate the Jews into Christian society, the head of each family was obliged to assume a family name and every member of it also to take a first name. Hence Otto's great-great-grandfather, who had been born Gumpel the Klopper in 1758, died in 1803 as Markus Klemperer.”

—From Peter Heyworth's Otto Klemperer: Volume 1, 1885-1933: His Life and Times