Corresponding with Carlos

A Biography of Carlos Kleiber

By (author) Charles Barber

Publication date:

30 November 2011

Length of book:

404 pages

Publisher

Scarecrow Press

ISBN-13: 9780810881433

Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004) was the greatest conductor of his generation. His reputation is legendary, and yet astonishingly, in his five decades on the podium, he conducted only 89 concerts, some 600 opera performances, and produced 12 recordings. How did someone who worked so little compared to his peers achieve so much?

Between his relatively small output and well-known aversion to publicity, many came to regard Kleiber as reclusive and remote, bordering on unapproachable. But in 1989 a conducting student at Stanford University wrote him a letter, and an unusual thing occurred: the world-renowned conductor replied. And so began a 15-year correspondence, study, and friendship by mail.

Drawing heavily on this decade-and-a-half exchange,
Corresponding with Carlos is the first English-language biography of Kleiber ever written. Charles Barber offers unique insights into how Kleiber worked based on their long and detailed correspondence. This biography by one friend of another considers, among other matters, Kleiber's singular aesthetic, his playful and often erudite sense of humor, his reputation for perfectionism, his much-studied baton technique, and the famous concert and opera performances he conducted.

Comic and compelling,
Corresponding with Carlos explores the great conductor's musical lineage and the contemporary contexts in which he worked. It repudiates myths that inevitably crop up around genius and reflects on Kleiber's contribution to modern musical performance. This biography is ideal for musicians, scholars, and anyone with a special love of the great classical music tradition.
There's much, much more to Kleiber than the myth-making. At least there is now, thanks to Charles Barber's astonishing new book, Corresponding with Carlos: A Biography of Carlos Kleiber. Charles had a unique relationship with Kleiber. As a conducting student at Stanford University, with dazzling boldness and naivety, he wrote to Kleiber out of the blue and said he wanted to study with him. The key was Barber's use of humour and irony to attempt to elicit a response from Kleiber – it worked. Barber never formally became a student of Kleiber's (nobody ever did), but from 1989 until the maestro's death, he corresponded with the supposedly unknowable Carlos, and as well as vivid account of Kleiber's life, Barber's book publishes pretty well the complete letters he received. And they're a revelation. Kleiber proves as virtuosically funny and self-deprecating as he was incandescent on the podium....Barber's book does more than any other I know to simultaneously reveal the truth behind the Kleiber myths and to illuminate the deeper mystery of how his recordings and films continue to have such a talismanic power. This is a brilliant summary of Kleiber's way of making music.