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Exploring Music: Strong Interpretations--Josef Krips Conducts Mozart

The MHS Review 394 Vol. 11 No. 16, 1987

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David M. Greene


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This is the second-and presumably the last-volume of Josef Krips' reading of the Mozart symphonies with the Con­certgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. Whether these were intended as a begin­ning of a complete rendition I don't know; if they were, Krips did not live to finish the project. At least some of them appeared here on the Philips label as a sort of memorial around 1975 (Krips died the previous year).

My first recollection of Krips goes back to a Life article on emergent postwar conductors, and I particularly remember a shot of his moon face beam­ing over whatever orchestra he was leading. The roly-poly beatific exterior apparently concealed an iron will. He was born in Vienna 85 years ago, studied with Felix Weingartner, became his assistant, and made his debut at the age of 19. After holding provincial posts at Aussig and Dortmund, he was named musical director of the theater at Karlsruhe at 24. In 1935 he returned to Vienna to conduct at the Staatsoper and to teach at the conservatory, but the ad­vent of the Nazis three years later depos­ed him. The ensuing war put an end to an appointment in Belgrade.

The accounts are strangely silent as to just how he survived for the next several years, but when the guns were silenced he was back in Vienna devoting his energies to reviving musical life there and elsewhere in Austria. Growing fame brought him successive conductorships with the London Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony, from which last post he retired in 1970.

Josef Krips was especially admired for his interpretation of the music of the First Viennese School (his integral recor­ding of the Beethoven symphonies still turns up in "bargain" catalogs), and he was particularly noted for his Mozart. In his Grove article, Noel Goodwin says that "his unaffected interpretations and warmth of expressive feeling served ... as ideal introductions to the Viennese Classics for a post-war generation of concertgoers." I was myself quite taken with this present album, whose inter­pretations struck me as strong and for­thright. I might also note that the sur­faces of my test pressings and the clean­ness of the sound made me wonder if the recordings had been digitalized­ though this will make no never-mind to the Digit-Alices who insist that accurate reproduction of the performer's ab­dominal rumblings is more important than the music, and who regularly throw out the bathtub with the bathwater.

Mind you, the opinions expressed are those of the writer alone. I was somewhat distressed to find that the se­cond edition of the Penguin Stereo Record Guide rather damned Krips with faint praise for these recordings ("good recording and good playing" but "something unmemorable and wanting in character" here). I tried to find other opinions; but the Gramophone seems to offer nothing at all, Stereo Review had by this time decided that "classical" was for idiots, and my file of High Fidelity is in disarray. (My holdings of American Record Guide are sporadic that far back.) I have, curiously, the 1974 and 1975 volumes of Records in Review but they offer nothing apropos. (If anyone has earlier or later volumes they want to dispose of, excepting 1957-59, I'd be happy to talk with you.) So I am afraid you '11 just have to take my word for the quality of these recordings.

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