View Poll Results: Which Karajan cycle would you buy?

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  • 1963

    53 68.83%
  • 1977

    21 27.27%
  • 1985

    3 3.90%
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Thread: Which was the best Beethoven cycle by Karajan?

  1. #1
    Senior Member SAKO's Avatar
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    Default Which was the best Beethoven cycle by Karajan?

    Let's put aside Klemperer, Harnoncourt, Norrington, Bohm, Cluytens, Jochum, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and no doubt many others.

    Rather than enter into a discussion regarding which conductor and/or orchestra produced the finest cycle of symphonies by BEETHOVEN, allow me to concentrate on Karajan, and ask the following;

    Rather than buying them all, suppose the good lady (or man) at home, under threat of making your life a misery for ever after, allowed you to own only ONE set of the Beethoven cycle, and it MUST be one of the 3 by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (not the 1950's cycle with the Philharmonia) on either the original vinyl or CD.

    Which cycle would it be?

    The one issued in 1963, 1977 or 1985?

    Reasons why are optional, but may be interesting.
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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    I prefer the 1963. From what I have heard of the 1985 it is rather awful - sound, covers & the general concept, whereas 1963 and 1977 are both good; I own both and once also had the Philharmonia issue - which was a bit anonymous and in mono.
    Last edited by joen_cph; Sep-16-2012 at 12:13.

  3. #3
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    I doubt anyone here has ever listened to all three comprehensively. The poor reviews of the latter two cycles and the grim reputation of the 80s Karajan scares most people away.

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  5. #4
    Senior Member Arsakes's Avatar
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    I don't have any Karajan's Beethoven ... but his late 70s and early 80s Sibelius is very good.

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    I generally feel that Karajan was quite consistant (others might say static) in his interpretations. To me, his Beethoven did not change much over the years. I find that all three of his DG cycles are stellar. His 80s cycle might sound a little less harsh and dramatic and more fine-tuned and balanced. But to me, the most significant differences are those of recording/sound quality. The 60s cycle has a certain roughness to it, due to a less sophisticated recording technique, which is quite charming.

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  9. #6
    Senior Member Ondine's Avatar
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    I have both cycles -'63 & '77 and the '63 is the one I love the most. The ninth of the '63 is just outstanding.


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    The Eroica in the later digital version is better than the Eroica in 62.

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  12. #8
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    I'd buy the '60s cycle, mainly because I already have the one from the 70s. But I'm pretty happy with it, so I'm not looking to add to it.

  13. #9
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    1963, and if money isn't a problem, get the hybrid set for improved sound (stereo layer).

    This can be supplemented with three fine remasterings from the 1977 cycle. I underappreciated the '77 "Pastoral", until I heard it in this particular reissue.

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    If you're going to supplement a Pastoral, I'd jump ship from Karajan to Bohm.

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    Senior Member PlaySalieri's Avatar
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    What about his 50s mono perfs with the Philharmonia - they are the best. Good pacing - electrifying playing.

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  19. #12
    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ondine View Post
    I have both cycles -'63 & '77 and the '63 is the one I love the most. The ninth of the '63 is just outstanding.

    I suppose that's my second favorite ninth (behind Furtwängler/Bayreuth).

    I can speak with some confidence on the 62-63 & the 77 set. The 77 set is not as bad as some make it out to be... but I still think the early-60s is the one to beat.

    My favorite 7th is from that set. [Kleiber fans will disagree.] As a rendition, if you're one of those who hyperventilate about omitting one of the exposition-repeats from Movement Three (I'm not), then you'll disqualify the Karajan 7th. I believe you'd miss out... but that's just one fan's opinion...
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  21. #13
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    I used to have the 1977 set on vinyl. It is a really outstanding set with some superb performances. I now have the 1963 recordings which are equally fine. It will be roundabouts and swings for personal preference. I also have the 1985 Eroica. It has a superb funeral march. No set of Beethoven symphonies is completely successful all the way through. But HvK comes as near as we perhaps are likely to see. Of course there are finer performances of individual symphonies if you look hard (eg Kleiber's outstanding 5&7, but Karajan nowhere lets the side (or Beethoven) down.

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  23. #14
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    The 1963 cycle is a must have for anyone who likes Beethoven or anyone who wants to explore what Classical/Romantic music is about. Outstanding interpretation by Karajan and finest performance of the 3 cycles.
    Maybe I'm biased, but it was my first purchase after I realized I had outgrown rock music.

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  25. #15
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_townPhilly View Post
    ...if you're one of those who hyperventilate about omitting one of the exposition-repeats from Movement Three (I'm not), then you'll disqualify the Karajan 7th.
    Doesn't bother me any. Beethoven did go on a bit sometimes. With all the repeats in the scherzo of the 9th, it's longer than the slow movement! Sorry Ludwig, unkind cuts are in order.

    BTW I have HvK's '63 and '85 digital. Both are just fine, but neither is my favorite.
    Last edited by KenOC; Dec-26-2012 at 01:27.


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