Kleiber was a legendary conductor. Still he created a lot of controversy, because of who he was as a musician of genius. Kleiber was a perfectionist, and the results he achieved in performances are legendary. There was likely a psychological aspect to the fact that he was the son of a very famous father, the conductor Erich Kleiber (1890-1956). The father did not support his son’s intent to become a conductor, so Carlos studied Chemistry until he ultimately rebelled and decided to study conducting in spite of his father’s objections.
There are DVD’s of a relatively few performances, and they are amazing in several respects. Watch the face of the man: He breathes music, even before the first beat is given. His conducting technique emphasizes balance, color, rhythm, and the whole aspect of the musical phrase. As you watch, you can see from his cues that he tells the musicians: “Hey… this spot is all about the Bassoon right now”. Rarely does Kleiber just beat time; on the contrary: he may just stop conducting for a few bars, as he watches with satisfaction how the rehearsals have led to a performance that is working. He’ll smile then, and continue with the work to its conclusion. Below I list two DVD’s that hold a prime spot in my collection. Each contains one symphony by Brahms, and additional compositions by Mozart. Watch and listen to Kleiber as he sets the beginning of the Brahms Symphony #4. It’s magic! Both of these recordings have my highest endorsement.
DVD 1: Kleiber conducts the Bavarian State orchestra in a Deutsche Gramophone recording
Beethoven: Coriolan overture;
Mozart: Symphony #33
Brahms: Symphony #4
DVD 2: Kleiber conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a Phillips recording
Mozart: Symphony #36 (“Linz”)
Brahms: Symphony #2