Otto Klemperer, Conductor – Bernardo Segall, Piano – Los Angeles Philharmonic – The Standard Hour – February 11, 1945 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Hinted at and alluded to, Los Angeles from the 1920s on was a hotbed of cultural activity – a sun-drenched paradise for those coming from a war torn Europe after World War 1, bringing a level of artistic sophistication to a fledgling Hollywood. A haven and solace for those escaping Hitler in 1930s Germany. It was the place to be for many leaving Europe and Russia.
Otto Klemperer was already well established in Europe as a conductor of considerable repute – that he was Jewish, which instantly put him on the outs with the Nazi regime, he was forced to seek refuge in another country. And so he settled in Los Angeles where he became Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from the 1930s until just after the war years. From those who were around at the time, it was a memorable period, not only for the orchestra but for Musical life in Los Angeles in general.
Unfortunately, not a lot of Klemperer era recordings have survived. The Philharmonic did not begin any sort of regular schedule of full-length concerts on their own until after World War 2, but were rather carried in a somewhat abbreviated form via The Standard Hour; a program sponsored by the Union Oil Company of California and featured, not only Los Angeles but also San Francisco during the Pierre Monteux years on an alternating weekly basis. Since it was only an hour, not a lot was possible – and some broadcasts offered frustrating snippets of complete works, like the one here; the last two movements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Basically, shorter works were featured and even the guest artist, the Brazilian pianist Bernardo Segall, plays Liszt’s Totentanz on this broadcast.
But better a little than none at all. And over the years more Klemperer performances have surfaced from private collections or overlooked library inventories. The old line “never say never” becomes more apropos over time, especially with historic performances like this one.
Interesting side mention – at one point during the broadcast, the announcer mentions the L.A. Philharmonic was to host a guest appearance by Arturo Toscanini as part of a fundraiser in the coming weeks. It would be too much to imagine a recording of that event exists in any shape or form, aside from the red-carpet interviews of stars attending – but you just never know.
Enjoy the show.
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