C1465. JOSEF KRIPS Cond. Cleveland Orch.: Sympnony #2 in D; w.VAN CLIBURN: Piano Concerto #2 in b B-flat (both Brahms); Interview with Van Cliburn. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-393, Live Performance, 24 July, 1969, Blossom Music Festival. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Josef Krips entered the Vienna Academy of Music where he was a pupil of Weingartner and Mandyczewski. He was a violinist in the orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper between 1918 and 1921, when Weingartner promoted him to be a coach and chorusmaster there, and in the same year he made his début as a conductor, taking over a performance of Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA at short notice, and conducting without a score. Also in 1921 he made his first appearance as a symphonic conductor, at the Redoutensaal in Vienna. Krips served as head of the opera department of the municipal theatre in the Czech city of Usti nad Labem during 1924 and 1925, before moving to the post of conductor at the Dortmund Municipal Theatre for the following season, 1925–1926, and was chief conductor at Karlsruhe between 1926 and 1933 where he conducted both opera and concerts, leading festivals devoted to Bruckner (1929) and to Handel (1930).
At about this time, Krips began to appear internationally. He was appointed as a resident conductor at the Vienna State Opera in 1933 (making his début there with Johann Strauss’ DER ZIGEUNERBARON), made his Salzburg début in 1935, and taught at the Vienna Academy from 1935 to 1938; but following the Anschlüss, the annexation of Austria by National Socialist Germany, he was forced out of these positions. Although he moved to Belgrade where he continued to conduct during 1938 and 1939, he was again compelled, as in Vienna, to give up all professional musical activity through political pressure and spent World War II doing menial work. After the occupation of Vienna by the Allied powers at the end of the war, the Soviet authorities gave Krips the responsibility to reconstruct musical life in the city. He brought the State Opera back to life with many memorable performances at the Theater an der Wien and at the Volksoper, conducted the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony Orchestras at the Musikverein, and reopened the Salzburg Festival in 1946 with Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI. He also conducted the Vienna State Opera on its highly successful visit to London in 1947, and appeared elsewhere with it and the Vienna Philharmonic on tour in Belgium, France, Italy and Switzerland.
Having been appointed chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1950, Krips remained with the orchestra until 1954 and did much to rebuild it after the depredations of the war. He succeeded William Steinberg as chief conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1954, and as in London previously, continued Steinberg’s work of making it into one of America’s stronger ensembles. He also took on the conductorship of the Cincinnati May Festival between 1954 and 1960. In 1963 Krips moved from Buffalo to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, remaining with this ensemble until 1970, when he was given the title of conductor emeritus. He had made a considerable impact with DON GIOVANNI at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1963, and conducted at the Metropolitan Opera. From 1966 he appeared also with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for ten weeks during its 1964–1965 season directing a cycle of the Bruckner symphonies. By this time Krips was recognised as one of the most outstanding exponents of the Viennese school of conducting: he returned to Covent Garden in 1971 to lead a beautifully moulded account of DIE MEISTERSINGER and shortly before his death followed this with equally fine readings of DER ROSENKAVALIER and FIDELIO.
Krips was a splendidly animated conductor: so graphic were his facial expressions and so clear his baton technique that it was impossible to misunderstand his musical intentions. Like his mentor Weingartner, he was a stickler for an exact rendition of the written score, which he constantly interpreted with musicianship of the highest order. He was active in the recording studio from the end of the 1940s onwards, initially conducting operatic accompaniments for Walter Legge and EMI, before being taken up by Decca. He made many fine recordings during his time with the London Symphony Orchestra, and remained with Decca until 1960, recording for the company several of its most highly-rated early stereo recordings. His cycle of the Beethoven symphonies with the LSO, recorded for Everest in London, remained in the catalogue for many years.
Towards the end of his life Krips recorded several of the later Mozart symphonies with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra for Philips. These stand as an eloquent memorial to his great skill as a Mozart conductor, and fully demonstrate why he was such a key figure in the development of the post-war Mozart style. He wittily said, of Mozart conducting, ‘Mozart is, of all composers, the most difficult to conduct, and I can tell you why: two bars and you are suddenly transported to heaven. It’s very hard to keep your bearings when you are there’. Of the few live recordings of Krips in the opera house, those made during his later years at the Vienna State Opera preserve outstanding examples of his art as a dramatic conductor.”
- David Patmore, Naxos' A–Z of Conductors
“Van Cliburn, the American pianist whose first-place award at the 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow made him an overnight sensation and propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career, was a lanky 23-year-old when he clinched the gold medal in the inaugural year of the Tchaikovsky competition, and the feat in Moscow was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. He became a cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions and brought overdue attention to the musical assets of his native land. When Mr. Cliburn returned to New York, he was given a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, which offered the sight of about 100,000 people lining the streets and cheering a classical musician. In a ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Robert F. Wagner proclaimed that Mr. Cliburn’s accomplishment was ‘a dramatic testimonial to American culture’ and that ‘with his two hands, Van Cliburn struck a chord which has resounded around the world, raising our prestige with artists and music lovers everywhere’.
Even before his Moscow victory, the Juilliard-trained Mr. Cliburn was a notable up-and-coming pianist. He won the Leventritt Foundation Award in 1954, which earned him débuts with five major orchestras including the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos. For that performance, at Carnegie Hall in November 1954, he performed the work that would become his signature piece, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concert #1, garnering enthusiastic reviews and a contract with Columbia Artists.
At the time, America had produced an exceptional generation of pianists besides Mr. Cliburn who were all in promising stages of their own careers, among them Leon Fleisher, Byron Janis, Gary Graffman and Eugene Istomin. But the Tchaikovsky competition came at a historically important time: a period when American morale had been badly shaken by the Soviet Union’s launching of the world’s first orbiting satellite, the Sputnik, in 1957.
The impact of Mr. Cliburn’s victory was further enhanced by a series of vivid articles written for The New York Times by Max Frankel, then a foreign correspondent based in Moscow and later an executive editor of the paper. The reports of Mr. Cliburn’s progress — prevailing during the early rounds, making it to the finals and becoming the darling of the Russian people, who embraced him in the streets and flooded him with fan mail and flowers — created national anticipation as he went into the finals. Mr. Cliburn was at first oblivious to the political ramifications of the Tchaikovsky prize.
Mr. Cliburn was a naturally gifted pianist whose enormous hands had an uncommonly wide span. He developed a commanding technique, cultivated an exceptionally warm tone and manifested solid musical instincts. At its best his playing had a surging Romantic fervor, but leavened by an unsentimental restraint that seemed peculiarly American. The towering Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a juror for the competition, described Mr. Cliburn as a genius — a word, he added, ‘I do not use lightly about performers’.
But if the Tchaikovsky competition represented Mr. Cliburn’s breakthrough, it also turned out to be his undoing. Relying inordinately on his keen musical instincts, he was not an especially probing artist, and his growth was stalled by his early success. Audiences everywhere wanted to hear him in his prizewinning pieces, the Tchaikovsky First Concerto and the Rachmaninoff Third. Every American town with a community concert series wanted him to come play a recital.
His subsequent explorations of wider repertory grew increasingly insecure. During the 1960's he played less and less. By 1978 he had retired from the concert stage; he returned in 1989, but performed rarely. Ultimately, his promise and potential were never fulfilled. But the extent of his talent was apparent early on.
Mr. Cliburn leaves a lasting if not extensive discography. One recording in particular, his performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto recorded live at Carnegie Hall on the night of his post-Tchaikovsky competition concert, was praised by Mr. Schonberg, the critic, for its technical strength, musical poise, and ‘manly lyricism unmarred by eccentricity’. Mr. Schonberg then added, prophetically, ‘No matter what Cliburn eventually goes on to do this will be one of the great spots of his career; and if for some reason he fails to fulfill his potentialities, he will always have this to look back upon’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 Feb., 2013