“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.”