|"It is nearly unnecessary to ask a musician where he comes from. Most all the musicians come from the East: from Russia, from Poland, from Hungary. I come from Poland. In the time of my birth, Breslau, the city where I am born, was a German town, the capital of Silesia. Today it is called Wroclaw, a Polish town."
Otto Klemperer, Face to Face, 1960.
Otto Nossan Klemperer was born May 14, 1885 in the town then known as Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), the second child and only son of Ida and Nathan Klemperer. (family trees: Nathan Ida)
Both parents were musicians.
Nathan, endowed with a rich baritone voice, impressive appearance, and intimate acquaintance with the German Lieder repertoire, seemed destined for the concert stage. But
as the younger son of a school-teacher, Abraham, who could only afford to educate his eldest son*, it was as tradesman, not musician, that Nathan earned his livelihood. From his hometown Prague, "the Second Vienna," he headed west to the trade center Breslau to make his living, where he and his brother Hermann manufactured and sold toys.
Ida was a pianist of breathtaking ability. "She played with such overwhelming fire," wrote a young violinist of her performance of a Beethoven sonata, "that at moments she really made me forget my own playing and listen to her interpretation." In her case, unlike Nathan's, it was not lack of family finances that thwarted any hopes of a professional career. Hamburg had prospered from its status as a major European port; her own family's fortunes had also flourished. Rather, her gender and station rendered performing for a living unthinkable.
It was at a toy convention in 1881 when both were in their mid-thirties that they finally met, where Nathan was a prize-winning exhibitor and Ida an out-of-towner being shown Breslau's attractions by her sister. Although of diverse backgrounds and temperaments Ida was as highly disciplined and as uncompromising in her moral standards as Nathan was congenial and laissez faire their shared love of music drew them together. That evening, Ida accompanied Nathan in some Schubert songs. Three days later, they were married.
They settled in at Kaiser Wilhelm-Strasse (now Ul. Powstanców Slakich 3) and had two children in addition to Otto: Regina ("Regi"), b. August 1883 and Marianne, b. February 1889.