Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Epic Journey of Otto Klemperer

It's 2:00 a.m.; I should have been asleep hours ago.  Instead, thanks to Opera Chic, I've been watching this documentary from which I couldn't turn away, on the life of conductor Otto Klemperer, a man who had Gustav Mahler as a mentor, a man who was at forefront of the explosion of musical and theatrical creativity of the Weimar Republic, a man who was run out of Europe by the Nazi's, run out of Budapest by the Communists, and out of America by the McCarthyites; a man who survived both a brain tumor and setting himself on fire, a man who in later half of his life left a first impression of frailty unto death, but who was making orchestral magic until only a few years before he died, age 88.  And that's not counting the things the documentary left out - Klemperer's recurring mental illness, his ceaseless womanizing, his erratic and often abusive behavior.  Like Steve Jobs, he inspired terror and devotion, and his life and career was like an exposition on the 20th century, its music, from Mahler to Pierre Boulez, and its turbulent history.  Much of that story is told in his own voice, at times breaking out into an amazingly robust near-giggle laugh that seems to say that,  for all the torment, he thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

No comments: