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Thread: The Grand Karajan Review Thread

  1. #331
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Disc 32
    LP#2531 146

    cd32.jpg

    Anton Webern: Passacaglia for Orchestra, op. 1; 5 Movements (version for string orchestra), op. 5;
    6 Stücke für Orchester, op. 6; Symphony for Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, 2 Horns, Harp and Strings, op. 21
    Berliner Philharmoniker, orchestra


    Recorded at
    Philharmonie, Berlin, 11 February 1974 (Passacaglia);
    Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin 19-20 November & 6 December 1973 (5 Movements);
    Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin 3 March 1973 (6 Stücke);
    Philharmonie, Berlin, 18 February 1974 (Symphony);
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch
    Recording Producer: Hans Weber
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 46:00

    Review: The Passacaglia here is amazing from a sonic perspective, with the smallest details present and the bass tones underlying the music resonating richly. Probably the best Philharmonie recording so far. The JCK pieces meet the typical standard of sonic excellence that has been set. The Symphony also sounds great. From an enjoyment perspective, the piece that really speaks to me is the Passacaglia, because of its greater sort of narrative feeling. The Symphony and shorter pieces are a little too noodly and (Seemingly) unstructured for me to go back to again and again.

    All in all, this set has been truly wonderful, and has been a fun journey to go on at this point in my CM appreciation. When I first bought this a year or so ago, I didn't like it. But my other listening since, and listening to these "decade" box sets has exposed me to and attuned my ear to some more challenging pieces, such as Stravinsky, Hoenegger, and so on. If these recordings end up being the ones Karajan is unanimously praised for, that's not too bad an epitaph.

    Overall Rating: 9/10

    Videos:




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  3. #332
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Disc 33-34
    LP#2721 077
    cd33-34.jpg

    Prussian and Austrian Marches

    Recorded at
    Philharmonie, Berlin, 2/7/8 March 1793
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch
    Recording Producer: Hans Weber
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 83:37

    Review: Is this album absurd? Yes. Is the art exceedingly strange, like a cross between a heavy metal album and a fascist pamphlet? Yes. But is it still kind of compelling and do I play it when I'm doing chores? Guilty as charged. You can't say that HVK/BPO didn't give this music their full attention and technical commitment. The highlights for me would be the Königgrätzer Marsch and Unter dem Doppeladler. Overall, it's a heck of a lot of march music, and a little bit goes a long way.

    Overall Rating: 8/10

    Videos:


    A playlist broken out individually:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...OsEYCmNia12fto

    All smooshed together:
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Jul-29-2020 at 05:52.

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  5. #333
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewWeflen View Post
    1970's Disc 33-34
    LP#2721 077
    cd33-34.jpg

    Prussian and Austrian Marches

    Recorded at
    Philharmonie, Berlin, 2/7/8 March 1793
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch
    Recording Producer: Hans Weber
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 83:37

    Review: Is this album absurd? Yes. Is the art exceedingly strange, like a cross between a heavy metal album and a fascist pamphlet? Yes. But is it still kind of compelling and do I play it when I'm doing chores? Guilty as charged. You can't say that HVK/BPO didn't give this music their full attention and technical commitment. The highlights for me would be the Königgrätzer Marsch and Unter dem Doppeladler. Overall, it's a heck of a lot of march music, and a little bit goes a long way.

    Overall Rating: 8/10

    Videos:


    A playlist broken out individually:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...OsEYCmNia12fto

    All smooshed together:
    This cover is absurd and I like it.

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  7. #334
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Disc 35-36
    LP#2709 049

    cd35-36.jpg

    J.S.Bach, Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
    Wiener Singverein, chorus
    Gundula Janowitz, soprano
    Christa Ludwig, contralto
    Peter Schreier, tenor
    Robert Kerns, baritone
    Karl Ridderbusch, bass


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 23-28 September & 23 November 1973; 3-5 January 1974
    Recording Producer: Hans Weber, Michel Glotz
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 126:15

    Review: The sound quality here is quite good, with clear textures throughout. The material, however, is not as compelling to me as the St. Matthew Passion from 1972 (Discs 24-26). The singers do a good job and the chorus and soloists are well modulated and the orchestra plays at a commendable level to allow their work its best showcase. It's all just a little sedate for my tastes. I like the larger numbers with the full chorus, but the solo work isn't my cup of tea. I don't have any other recordings to compare this with, so my feeling right now is it's just the material that doesn't do it for me.

    Overall Rating: 7/10

    Videos:

    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Jul-30-2020 at 07:18.

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  9. #335
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Disc 37
    LP#2530 597

    cd37.jpg

    Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, op. 14
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 14-15 October 1974 & 21 February 1975
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch
    Recording Producer: Hans Weber
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 53:03

    Review:
    This is one of the fastest turnarounds for a re-recording yet, HVK/BPO's previous Fantastique having been recorded in 1964 at the JCK. But the records are quite different. This one is sonically superior for the most part, though I think the dynamic range from piano to forte is a bit excessive. With that said, sounds are quite a bit clearer than the 60s record, especially in forte passages. I found myself liking this recording more than the 60s, though I wish the piano passages were louder. Highlights include the march and the Witches' Sabbath. I think this one gets the nod over the 60s, despite there still being room for improvement.

    Overall Rating: 9/10

    Videos:
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Jul-31-2020 at 20:24.

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  11. #336
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewWeflen View Post
    1970's Disc 35-36
    LP#2709 049

    cd35-36.jpg

    J.S.Bach, Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
    Wiener Singverein, chorus
    Gundula Janowitz, soprano
    Christa Ludwig, contralto
    Peter Schreier, tenor
    Robert Kerns, baritone
    Karl Ridderbusch, bass


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 23-28 September & 23 November 1973; 3-5 January 1974
    Recording Producer: Hans Weber, Michel Glotz
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 126:15

    Review: The sound quality here is quite good, with clear textures throughout. The material, however, is not as compelling to me as the St. Matthew Passion from 1972 (Discs 24-26). The singers do a good job and the chorus and soloists are well modulated and the orchestra plays at a commendable level to allow their work its best showcase. It's all just a little sedate for my tastes. I like the larger numbers with the full chorus, but the solo work isn't my cup of tea. I don't have any other recordings to compare this with, so my feeling right now is it's just the material that doesn't do it for me.

    Overall Rating: 7/10

    Videos:

    Karajan was himself disappointed with this recording after his superb 1950s recording.

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  13. #337
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Discs 38-39
    LP#2707 085

    cd38-39.jpg

    Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 8 (Hass Edition)
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 20-23 January & 22 April 1975
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch
    Recording Producer: Michel Glotz
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 82:26

    Review:
    Karajan's first Bruckner 8 for DG is titanic. The Philharmonie provides wondrous acoustics. Small details are evident, but brass resounds powerfully. The highlight of this rendition is certainly the Adagio, which is truly mystical and has amazing string textures. It begins at 31:55 in the appended video. The finale is also tremendous. HVK/BPO do a great job of keeping a narrative pulse going throughout this long symphony. I do think this is probably surpassed by HVK/VPO's digital Bruckner 8 in the 80s, but it's a close call.

    Overall Rating: 10/10

    Video:


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  15. #338
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Discs 40-41
    LP#2707 106

    cd40-41.jpg

    Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 6 "Tragic"
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 17-20 February 1975; 18-19 & 9 March 1977
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch, Magdalene Padberg
    Recording Producer: Michel Glotz
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 83:02

    Review:
    I have been a bit down on Mahler. I still think his symphonies are too long. But I was pretty wowed by this one. It is definitely a unique sound world, and the percussion is what really sets it apart. Triangles, wood blocks, xylophones, wondrous drums. The recorded sound here is 21st century digital quality - truly an achievement for mid to late 70s analog. At least based on my listening (as an avowed non-Mahlerian) I find this to be Mahler's most accessible symphony so far.

    Overall Rating: 9/10

    Video:

    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Aug-02-2020 at 06:31.

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  17. #339
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Disc 42
    LP#2530 674

    cd42.jpg

    Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 4 "Romantic" (Original Edition)
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 21 April 1975
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch, Magdalene Padberg
    Recording Producer: Michel Glotz
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 64:16

    Review:
    Something about this recording doesn't do it for me. There is a crowded, "close" feeling to the proceedings that was not present in the last Bruckner, and certainly not the Mahler 6. The playing is all top-notch, of course, and the whole thing is slightly to the brisk side of average in terms of duration. This one just isn't giving me the same holographic clarity that the Mahler, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven seem to in this venue.

    Overall Rating: 7/10

    Video:
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Aug-04-2020 at 05:09.

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  19. #340
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    1970's Disc 43
    LP#2530 677

    cd43.jpg

    Tchaikovsky, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1, op. 23
    Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
    Lazar Berman, piano


    Recorded at Philharmonie, Berlin, 17-18 November 1975
    Executive Producer: Hans Hirsch, Magdalene Padberg
    Recording Producer: Michel Glotz
    Balance Engineer: Günter Hermanns
    Total time: 37:09

    Review:
    When I say this is the least of HVK/BPO's 3 Tchaikovsky piano concertos, I don't want to give the impression that it is bad. Far from it. It is just surpassed in terms of overall performance by the 60s disc with Richter, and by the 80s disc with Kissin in terms of sonics. Initially, I was skeptical of this recording for those very reasons. This is the first time I've heard it. As I settled in, though, my skepticism vanished and I was swept up in the performance, which has excellent playing by both Berman and the BPO, the finale in particular being very well done. But I have the other two recordings on my player, and comparison reveals them to be better. If they didn't exist, this would stand as a superb rendition of the piece. But they do exist, and they outclass this one.

    Overall Rating: 8/10

    Video:

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  21. #341
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I am not sure I get the point of this thread. Maybe I missed something but it seems that all the reviews are very positive - even the ones that apply to real stinkers. It all reads like a fanboys site or mere publicity. I get that some listeners love Karajan so much that he never did wrong for them but the review format seems not to be the best way to express that.

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  23. #342
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I am not sure I get the point of this thread. Maybe I missed something but it seems that all the reviews are very positive - even the ones that apply to real stinkers. It all reads like a fanboys site or mere publicity. I get that some listeners love Karajan so much that he never did wrong for them but the review format seems not to be the best way to express that.
    Perhaps you might point out what you think are the real stinkers, as a dissenting view (politely, of course).
    Last edited by JAS; Aug-05-2020 at 12:52.

  24. #343
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    ^ I am not sure that would be a good idea in this thread!

    But I would like to see some of the reviews reflecting the fact that not everything he did was gold or at least silver - it would help to build some trust in the value of the reviews - and I would also like to see some very brief comparison with non-Karajan alternatives in the reviews, some context.

    But don't mind me - the thread seems to be popular (and peaceful!) - but I just don't get its purpose.

  25. #344
    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    The point of the thread, as stated early on, is to be a compendium, full of information, exploring the discography of the DG "decade" boxes for people who don't own them. The reviews are just for fun, and are (mostly) relative to his own output. I have reviewed several releases negatively (the Carl Orff being the most recent, one page ago, the Four Seasons prior to that). Reviews, as always, are inherently subjective. I am coming from the position of someone who bought three giant boxes of Karajan for his own enjoyment, so take them for what they're worth.

    You are welcome to provide alternatives. Perhaps they would be more useful if they included a short description of the differences and a YouTube video so that people can make actual comparisons, as opposed to bald assertions of superiority with no support.
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; Aug-05-2020 at 16:28.

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  27. #345
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    Looking back to the original post the intent was to create a sort of reference list for a lot of Karajan recordings, with brief reviews and some comparisons (primarily between HvK recordings rather than against others).

    I think the point is that people probably have an idea of what HvK might serve up, so the brief review will let you know if the particular recording is out of line in terms of poor recording quality (or excellent recording quality) or unusual in some interpretative way relative to what one might anticipate from Herbert.

    I think that's not an unreasonable endeavour, and likely to be more useful than yet another thread where someone says I like the recording by Klemperer (or whoever) and then someone else says they prefer Szell (often with an implication that the first person is an idiot), and round and round it goes.

    I have been finding it entirely refreshing that there is not much of the usual I Like/You Like name calling.
    If someone wanted to repeat the endeavour for another conductor then I would probably tune into that too.

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