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Thread: Best and Worst Recordings: Karajan

  1. #16
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewWeflen View Post



    Attachment 121330

    Karajan's 1964 Brandenburg Concertos are a bit of a train wreck. Although I do not subscribe to the cliche knocks on his work as "slick," "shallow," "obsessed with surfaces" and "overproduced," well.... yeah, this is all of those. Yeesh. I replaced it with Pinnock and it was like hearing them for the first time.

    Karajan re-recorded these in the late 70s, and the results were not much of an improvement.
    Interesting that when it was played 'blind' before a team of 'experts' on radio they picked this recording of the Brandenburgs as the best, much to their discomfort when they found out the conductor.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    Thank you for mentioning Boheme ... I have never understood the fascination for it given the plodding tempi.

    Apart from if you like incredibly beautiful singing and stunning playing which I happen to. It is completely mesmeric.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Karajan of course made a rod for his own back with the excellence of so many of his recordings which made the critics (who dislike success) furious with him. So it tended to become fashionable to decry Karajan's later recordings. Certainly some of them are not up to the standard of his earlier ones. His 1982 Beethoven symphonies were a bit of a waste of time (apart from a stupendous no 3) as neither the recording not the performances quite matched what had gone before. His late Falstaff was not up to his earlier one with Gobbi simply because the latter is one of the greatest opera recordings of all time and unmatched by anyone before or since. Nor was his late Tosca up to the great one he made with Price and Taddei.
    Certainly Karajan recorded repertoire which his heart wasn't in (like Rimsky's Schez) to please the accountants at DG. It's not bad but not particularly good. His Tchaikovsky 1st piano concertos never worked out too well either which is surprising as he was a great conductor of that composer. If only he's have recorded as little as Carlos Kleiber he would have been the living legend Kleiber is today as most of his work would not be available. As it is we have the great with the not so great with the run-of-the-mill in the plethora of recordings he made. But think what pleasure people have had listening. And how that has annoyed the critics, who are still gnashing their teeth that Karajan still sells!
    Last edited by DavidA; Jul-14-2019 at 20:41.

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  7. #19
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Verdi_Falstaff.jpg

    If one recording this is perhaps the greatest of all. But the most excellent among excellencies!
    Last edited by DavidA; Jul-14-2019 at 20:57.

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  9. #20
    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewWeflen View Post
    [B]And now for the worst:

    Possibly HvK's most notorious recording, Stravinsky famously hated this 1964 rendition, labeling one part of it "tempo de hoochie-coochie." This is one that people point to when they claim that Karajan does not tailor his sound to the composition.


    Karajan's 1964 Brandenburg Concertos are a bit of a train wreck. Although I do not subscribe to the cliche knocks on his work as "slick," "shallow," "obsessed with surfaces" and "overproduced," well.... yeah, this is all of those. Yeesh. I replaced it with Pinnock and it was like hearing them for the first time.

    Karajan re-recorded these in the late 70s, and the results were not much of an improvement.
    I like both of those recordings. In the Brandenburg concerti I discount the recordings that prominently feature brass because modern brass just doesn't have the right sound. But the lush string sound is a guilty pleasure for a person who usually prefers HIP recordings.

    In both cases, I find the re-makes to be of less interest.
    Last edited by Baron Scarpia; Jul-14-2019 at 21:17.

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    Thanks for starting this. Back before I began relistening to classical, the local NPR affiliate ran a program dedicated to all the worst recordings by HvK. I guess he really hated his conducting. That was my introduction to the conductor, so I developed a prejudice before I even heard anything by him.

    Now that I have so many good recordings by him, I've wondered what that old program played that the host considered so awful. I know it was a few Baroque compositions which he appeared to be dialing in and a violin concerto.

    In my collection, of all my Karajan recordings, I think this recording of the Seasons is the worst. I can't even get a used CD store to take it. Someone described the opening as being so slow, it's less about creation and more about evolution.

    112320.jpg

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  12. #22
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    I like both of those recordings. In the Brandenburg concerti I discount the recordings that prominently feature brass because modern brass just doesn't have the right sound. But the lush string sound is a guilty pleasure for a person who usually prefers HIP recordings.

    In both cases, I find the re-makes to be of less interest.
    I don't think they're unlistenable or anything, but the "lushness" obscures so much detail, without adding any particular beauty (I like the lushness in a romantic composition, like his Schubert or Wagner).

  13. #23
    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    The moment I read "worst" in this question, the Brandenberg concertos and the Handel Concerti Grossi came into mind. However, while they are lush, smooth and elegant, they are really not that bad, and in conception I suppose that's what big band Baroque should sound like.

    In fact I can hardly think of any recording that deserves the "worst" label.

    Honestly I don't really warm to his Beethoven or Bruckner. I think they are a bit clumsy, like an elephant trying to navigate across a river full of loose rocks, but on the other hand he has also consistently shown us a monumental vision, therefore it won't be fair to call these bad at all.

    Indeed I think, in artistic terms, he has maintained a very high standard throughout his career. Even more phenomenal is that this high standard was maintained over a vast number of recordings.

    In commercial terms, he's probably the most successful entrepreneur conductor, and I totally agree with what someone has already said about some critics hating success and therefore bashing him all the time.

    I truly admire his Mahler 9, the glorious sound in the studio version and the intensity in the live version. So is his Parsifal (out of this world!), his Metamorphosen (exhausting, in the good sense), his Johann Strauss II (pure elegance), his Turandot (look, this is probably universally hated, but I think it has a vision.) etc. etc.

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Let's not forget this one, one of his best, ever since Boskovsky it was a mega hit.

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogerx View Post

    Let's not forget this one, one of his best, ever since Boskovsky it was a mega hit.
    This was very close to making my list, but I wanted to keep it to two posts of 5 images apiece. It is exceptional.
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Jul-15-2019 at 05:10.

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewWeflen View Post
    This was very close to making my list, but I wanted to keep itt o two posts of 5 images apiece. It is exceptional.
    That's the right phrase for it, thanks .

  18. #27
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manxfeeder View Post
    In my collection, of all my Karajan recordings, I think this recording of the Seasons is the worst. I can't even get a used CD store to take it. Someone described the opening as being so slow, it's less about creation and more about evolution.

    112320.jpg
    Just to point out this is the Creation not the Seasons. I haven't heard this but would point out that Karajan's earlier version with Wunderlich, Janowitz, et al, is certainly the best in German unless you require period instruments. It is quite stupendous

    creation HvK.jpg

  19. #28
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogerx View Post

    Let's not forget this one, one of his best, ever since Boskovsky it was a mega hit.
    I remember the occasion being broadcast. So long ago! How the years pass!

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  21. #29
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiki View Post
    The moment I read "worst" in this question, the Brandenberg concertos and the Handel Concerti Grossi came into mind. However, while they are lush, smooth and elegant, they are really not that bad, and in conception I suppose that's what big band Baroque should sound like.

    In fact I can hardly think of any recording that deserves the "worst" label.

    Honestly I don't really warm to his Beethoven or Bruckner. I think they are a bit clumsy, like an elephant trying to navigate across a river full of loose rocks, but on the other hand he has also consistently shown us a monumental vision, therefore it won't be fair to call these bad at all.

    Indeed I think, in artistic terms, he has maintained a very high standard throughout his career. Even more phenomenal is that this high standard was maintained over a vast number of recordings.

    In commercial terms, he's probably the most successful entrepreneur conductor, and I totally agree with what someone has already said about some critics hating success and therefore bashing him all the time.

    I truly admire his Mahler 9, the glorious sound in the studio version and the intensity in the live version. So is his Parsifal (out of this world!), his Metamorphosen (exhausting, in the good sense), his Johann Strauss II (pure elegance), his Turandot (look, this is probably universally hated, but I think it has a vision.) etc. etc.
    I must confess 'clumsy' is the last word I would apply to the 1963 set of Beethoven.

  22. #30
    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I remember the occasion being broadcast. So long ago! How the years pass!



    And made Kathleen Battle a kind of superstar.

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