Added on May 14, 2010: The
Complete Recordings by Carlos Kleiber for Deutsche Grammophon will be
released in June 2010. Order the 12-CD-box from
Carlos Kleiber biography and
Article added on December 14 and updated on December 16, 2004
The charismatic, eccentric and
enigmatic conductor Carlos Kleiber became a legend during his lifetime.
Although loved, even adored by musicians and the public, once established as a
leading conductor, he refused to accept a permanent position because he
disliked any form of routine and even turned down the Berlin Philharmonic's
invitation (as first choice) to become Herbert von Karajan's successor.
Kleiber was publicity shy, reclusive, kind-hearted and preferred family-life
to the limelight. Later in his career, he deliberately limited himself to
conducting his favorite operas and symphonies.
Carlos Kleiber was born on July 3, 1930,
in Berlin, where his father Erich Kleiber (Vienna
1890 - Zurich 1956) was Musical Director (Generalmusikdirektor) at Berliner
Staatsoper from 1923 to 1934 where he conducted the premier of Alban Berg's
in 1925. As a protest against the Nazi regime, Erich Kleiber resigned his post
in 1935 and the non-Jewish family emigrated to Argentina where Erich Kleiber
worked at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires from 1936 to 1949.
In South America, Carlos Kleiber learned to play the piano and timpani. He
also began to sing and compose. There are rumors that his father tried to
thwart his musical career, yet later Carlos used his father's annotated scores.
After World War Two Carlos studied chemistry in Zurich,
Switzerland in 1949. Already one year later, he returned to Buenos Aires. In
1952, he began his conducting career at the theatre in La Plata. Among his
early mentors were famous conductors such as Fritz Busch, Bruno Walter and
Arturo Toscanini, with whom he shares the approach of utter loyalty to a work.
In 1953, Carlos Kleiber returned to Europe and took up the post of répétiteur
at the Gärtnerplatz Theater in Munich. The following year, Carlos' passion
for music led to his debut as a conductor in Potsdam, East Germany where he
conducted an operetta under the pseudonym of Karl Keller.
After a brief interlude at the Volksoper in Vienna, Carlos Kleiber served as répétiteur
at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf from 1956 to 1958, where
subsequently he became conductor. From 1964 to 1966, he conducted the Zurich
Opera and, from 1966 to 1968, he served as Kapellmeister at the
Württembergisches Staatstheater in Stuttgart. This was his last firm
Carlos Kleiber disliked the daily routine, contracts and social conventions and
disapproved the commercial side of the music business. He never had an agent
but negotiated all concert and record contracts himself. He refused to give
interviews pretending that he could not find the right words to express
From 1968 to 1978, he worked as guest conductor with the Bayerische Staatsoper
in Munich. Occasionally, he conducted in Stuttgart. His debut in Great Britain
came in 1966 when he conducted Berg's Wozzeck at the Edinburgh
Festival. His debuts at the Wiener Staatsoper and in Bayreuth came in 1973 and
1974, in both cases conducting Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (sheet
music by Richard Wagner). Incidentally, he conducted Wagner's Tristan
in Bayreuth for three consecutive years until 1976.
In 1974, he gave his debut at Covent Garden in London and at La Scala in
Milan, conducting Richard Strauss'
Der Rosenkavalier, one of his father's specialties (sheet
music by Richard Strauss). His debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
followed in 1979, with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1982 and with the
Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1983.
A perfectionist, Carlos Kleiber disliked recordings. However, in 1973, he
began to collaborate with Deutsche Grammophon and agreed to record Carl Maria
von Weber's Freischütz
with the Staatskapelle Dresden, an orchestra with whom his father had closely
worked together. It was greeted with praise. In 1975, he recorded Beethoven's Fifth
Symphony in Vienna. The album was acclaimed by critics to the point that
one reviewer wrote that "it was as if Homer had come back to recite the
Carlos Kleiber stormed from one success to the next: In 1976, he recorded
Beethoven's Seventh in Vienna and Johann Strauss's
Fledermaus in Munich, in 1977 followed Giuseppe
Verdi's La Traviata in Munich, in 1979 Schubert's Third and Unfinished
in Vienna, 1981 Brahms's Fourth in Vienna, in 1982 Richard Wagner's Tristan
and Isolde in Dresden. Kleiber's records are rare, but all of them are
Carlos Kleiber married a ballet dancer from Slovenia who worked in Düsseldorf.
Therefore, Kleiber, who was fluent in six languages, learned Slovenian and
lived in his wife's homeland, where, on July 12, 2004 he died at the age
of 74 from a severe illness.
Carlos Kleiber, Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, Elena Obraztsova,
etc.: George Bizet: Carmen. Directed for stage and TV by Franco
Zeffirelli. Live recording at the Wiener Staatsoper 1978. Get the DVD from Amazon.co.uk
or Amazon.de. Carlos Kleiber was very reluctant in releasing audio-visual recordings
of his performances. However, he gave his okay to this one before his death.
The release was planned for autumn 2004.
Carlos Kleiber: Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7. DG, 2003. Get the CD
Carlos Kleiber - Die Legende. 5 DVDs. Universal, November 2004. Get it
Includes: Beethoven Symphonies 4 &
7 with the
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mozart Symphony No. 36 in C major K425 and Brahms
Symphony No. 2 with the
Wiener Philharmoniker, Brahms Symphony no. 4 with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester,
Carlos Kleiber: Schubert, Brahms, Wagner. Deutsche Grammophon, 2004. Schubert
and Brahms recorded in Vienna, Musikverein, Golden Hall or Grosser Saal in 1978 and 1980.
Wagner recorded in the Lukaskirche, Dresden, in 1980, 1981 and 1982. Get the
CD from Amazon.com,
or Amazon.de. The English critic Richard Osborne later wrote about this
recording of Schubert's Unfinished: "The genius of Kleiber's
performance is his willingness to characterize both the music's profound
melancholy and its bustling energy...". Richard Evidon writes in the
booklet that "Kleiber was dead set against a live recording ... with
all its imponderables...". Kleiber's demands were extreme: ten full
orchestral rehearsals in August and twenty sessions in October with the entire
cast present. The nerves of the oversensitive conductor were exposed during this undertaking.
Towards the end of the recording, in the midst of René Kollo's performance of
Tristan's delirium in Act III, he stormed out. Richard Evidon notes that
Kleiber's producer, Werner Mayer, presciently "had let the tape machines
run during the rehearsals of the preludes in August. Carlos Kleiber never
entered a recording studio again." - Order
by Richard Wagner.
Carlos Kleiber: Richard Strauss: Die Fledermaus. Universal, January
2005. Get the DVD from Amazon.de
Carlos Kleiber, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Ileana Cotrubas, Placido Domingo: La Traviata. 2 CDs, DG,
2004. Get the CDs from Amazon.com,
Carlos Kleiber in rehearsal - bei der Probe & in concert. Get the DVD 2003
(1970) from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de. These rehearsals reveal Kleiber's uncompromising commitment, passion and charm which allowed him to get everything from his musicians.
Carlos Kleiber, Wiener Staatsoper, Felicity Lott, Anne Sofie von Otter, Kurt
Moll, etc.: Richard Strauss:
Der Rosenkavalier. DVD 2001 (recorded in 1994). Get the DVD from Amazon.com,