Single new compact discs may be thin on the ground but the big boxes of CD reissues keep coming. In this column, I examine an icon of recording history, and a series of live concerts.

Warner Classics has released two boxes of the EMI recordings of conductor Otto Klemperer: an opera and choral set, and an orchestral set. The bigger of the two contains orchestral recordings: 94 discs of them (and one of interviews).

Klemperer Box

The first two discs were recorded between 1927 and 1929 in Berlin and reproduce remarkably well. Other than Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, they consist of dynamic readings of short pieces by Richard Strauss, Wagner and Offenbach. After that, we pick up from the early-mid 1950s when Klemperer, then entering his 70s, began conducting The Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Klemperer made many recordings with them, and their successor ensemble The New Philharmonia, up until 1971. He died in 1973.

This legacy is well worth having, especially for the performances dating to about 1966. Klemperer in his old age was hampered by a number of accidents, and both physical and mental illnesses, but his conviction never wavered. His way with the...