Favorite Classical Conductor Followup

We had a discussion of our favorite classical conductors a couple weeks ago. Among the conductors I sang the praises of was Ben Zander. Well I thought I would pass on that in Ben Zander's opinion the greatest "living" conductor is Carlos Kleiber.
For those interested in a sample of Kleiber's work, his recording of Beethoven's 5th symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic is a must have. The current CD reissue on the DG Originals label (catalog #447400) also has a great reading of the 7th symphony. It is currently on sale at TowerRecords.com for $8.99
And of course the Brahms 4th on DG originals. I had at one time a Beethoven 4th CD on "Orfeo" label that was also quite good by C Klieber. Unfortunately very limited number of recordings available. Why are there so few recordings, any opinions?
The two "New Year's in Vienna" discs (Strauss Waltzes and Polkas) on Sony are examples of how Kleiber can take the commonplace and elevate it several levels. And they're well recorded to boot.
Kleiber is a very exacting perfectionist who works and records when or where he feels like it. His great reputation also allows him to hand pick the repertoire, the orchestra, and soloists. He gives no interviews. He refuses to be tied to any one orchestra. He works at a pace that allows him to always have a top notch performances. All of these things put together makes each concert and recording "an event". He has been compared by critics with an expert art restorer; who takes the time to strip away centuries of "grime" (tradition), and expose the work of art beneath.
Interesting comment by Zander and one that I would agree with. Based on the posts in the conductors thread I bought the Zander Beethoven 9, 7 and 5. My personal faves for adherence to the score are Kleiber, Wiengartner, the 1938 Toscanini and Reiner. For a very detailed analysis of how most recordings of the 5th don't accurately follow Beethoven’s score I highly recommend Gunther Schuller's book The Complete Conductor which also has a detailed analysis of recordings of the Brahm's 1st and several other works from the standard repertoire. Schiller also has a recording of these works that totally adhere to the score which are worth listening to. Schuller is a long time orchestral musician, a composer, a champion for conducting contemporary music and also thinks that Kleiber is the greatest living conductor. Zander's propaganda on the liner notes was a little hard to swallow so I listened carefully to each performance following along with the score. In my opinion Zander's performances fall far short of his claims. Yes, he does play the works at tempo but so does Toscanini and for the most part Weingartner, Kleiber (5 and 7), and Reiner. But there is far more to conducting a Beethoven symphony than proper tempo. The Zander recording of the Ninth in particular shows very little demonstration of an understanding of the incredible structural unity that Beethoven achieved from linking of the thematic, rhythmic and harmonic elements of the composition. Zander’s commentary is particularly dismissive of Furtwangler but listening to the Lucerne Festival 1954 performance with score in hand with demonstrate my point on structure. The recording and playing is excellent the singing only OK. The performances of 5 and 7 are somewhat better but suffer from similar problems and do not illuminate what makes these symphonies such magnificent works of art. More to the point, after listening to the alternatives to Zander’s performance, I doubt that it would be the performance that many would want to return to over the others mentioned unless sound is your only criteria.
Zander's intent is to educate and enlighten, not to be the better than anyone else. Basically he feels the Beethoven we are use to has be romanticized by a century and a half of "tradition". He uses a Toscanini recording as an example of "tradition" and not following the score. Toscanini claimed he was being true to the score, and people took him at his word because of his reputation. Ben would love this discussion.....The Beethoven 5 & 7 CD of Ben's has the same extra CD with the lecture as the Mahler 9th. I agree his recording of the Beethoven 9th was just so so. I did not like the chorus. Zander is mentioned as a source of tempi ideas in the liner notes of some of Roger Norrington's original instrument recordings of Beethoven
All your points are well taken. I just believe that the marketing hype outstrips the product.
I have had personal contact with Ben in the past on more than one occassion, and he can be hyperbolic in public, so in regards to hype I guess I agree. He is a real dynamo and his enthusiansm is too much for some. No one is neutral if you ask them what they think of him.
For more info on Carlos Kleiber try the following link http://www.thrsw.com/kleiber.html. Most conductors have a strong personal Reality Distortion Field. It's a professional necessity to commnad the orchestra. One one of the advantages of a recording is the listener can avoid it. BTW I've been to over a 1000 professional symphonic and opera performances over the last 35 years and had several personal contacts with Solti during his Chicago years. It is frequently a sobering experience to relisten to a recording of a performance you attended.
There is also a lot of information on Kleiber and many others at classicalmusic.com ---- Pls1 - Interesting comment. I've heard a few of the Baltimore Symphony/Temirkanov concerts I've attended played on NPR and enjoyed them just as much. I also bought my parents that Final Concert CD of Berstein's from Tanglewood for my parents when it came out specifically because they were there. My parents are not critical listeners like us, however.