Otto Klemperer(Otto Nossan Klemperer)

Otto Klemperer, conductor
The conductor Otto Klemperer, circa 1930
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Otto Klemperer(Otto Nossan Klemperer)

Das Land ist wundervoll, aber ‚etwas fehlt‘. Was ist es? Ich könnte mir denken, dass man sich in einem kleinen österreichischen Alpendorf, das landschaftlich gewiss nicht an Californien reicht, viel besser fühlt. Wieso schmeckt das Brot hier nicht wie in Wien? Es ist doch derselbe Weizen. Aber es ist nicht derselbe Boden! (im umfassendsten Sinne).

[This country is wonderful, but there is 'something missing'. What is it? I dare say one feels much better in a small Austrian village in the Alps, where the landscape surely doesn't match that of California. Why does the bread here not taste like it does in Vienna? It's the same wheat after all. But the ground is not the same! (In the broadest sense). (ed. trans.)]

Otto Klemperer to Lonny Epstein, 1936

Bornon 14 May 1885 in Breslau, Germany (now: Poland)
Diedon 6 July 1973 in Zurich, Switzerland
ExileUnited States of America
ProfessionConductor, Composer

In the Weimar Republic, Otto Klemperer was regarded as a conductor of the modern age: Among others, he championed works by Arnold Schönberg and Kurt Weill. The numerous pieces he composed himself are largely unknown.

After emigrating from Germany, Otto Klemperer initially appeared as a guest conductor in Europe's musical metropolises. From 1933 to 1939, he was also the principal conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. His wife still lived with their two children in Vienna. After the Austrian Federal Chancellor Dollfuß was murdered in 1934, Klemperer decided to leave Europe for good.

From the summer of 1935, he and his family lived together near Los Angeles. There he met Schönberg again, but the relationship between the two musicians was somewhat tense, as Schönberg's expectations of Klemperer were too high, that he as head of the orchestra in Los Angeles, could perform Schönberg's pieces.

In 1939, the conductor became seriously ill with a brain tumour and withdrew from the concert stage in the subsequent years. In 1946 he toured again - due to his illness, he had lost his job at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Klemperer became an American citizen in 1940, however his work conducting concerts and opera performances at the opera house in Budapest from 1947 onwards led the US American authorities to accuse him of favouring the communism of Hungary and they made it difficult for him to travel to guest performances. In 1954, Klemperer decided not to return to the States and settled in Zurich.

In 1959, Klemperer was appointed principal conductor of the New Philharmonia Orchestra in London, in 1964 he was made a life member and in 1970, he adopted both German and Israeli citizenship. Despite serious health and psychological problems, Klemperer continued to conduct until 1971.

Further reading:
Heyworth, Peter: Gespräche mit Klemperer. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag 1974
Heyworth, Peter: Otto Klemperer: Dirigent der Republik 1885 – 1933. Berlin: Siedler Verlag 1988
Klemperer, Otto: Über Musik und Theater – Erinnerungen, Gespräche, Skizzen. Wilhelmshaven: Heinrichshofen’s Verlag 1982