The Music Column

Eine Kleiber Ist Genug—Nicht

When Carlos Kleiber died in 2004, the world didn’t find it out until he had been gone for six days.  The elusive maestro/uncanny conductor had escaped the exploitative notice of the press for one last time.  There were the predictable reactions to the passing of the mystery man, but there was a difficulty in comparisons, because Carlos Kleiber just wasn’t comparable with anyone else, not even within the exclusive realm of the elite conductors of the operatic and symphonic worlds.  No one else had such a small repertoire of actually performed orchestral works and operas.  The knowledge base that he had was another story, but as he aged, Carlos Kleiber whittled down his list to an unimaginably curtailed few works.  But this lack of amplitude was exceeded only by the rarity of any appearances at all.

In his lifetime (he was born in 1930), Kleiber gave 89 concert performances of symphonic repertoire altogether, and repeated some few and fewer operas, totaling 620 presentations.  There were 37 early appearances as conductor of ballets, and he approved for release 12 recordings.  By the time he achieved a certain level of recognition, he was appearing less often, with literally less to offer.  But hardly anyone missed the point that what little there was, was also indispensable.  Indeed, it was the best, and the less of it there was, the higher the price and the more likelihood of...

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