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Thread: Who else is a fan of Karajan?

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    Default Who else is a fan of Karajan?

    A few years ago it was fashionable to diss Karajan, or at least to try to diminish his musical standing. I perceive that that trend has to some extent ameliorated, but not entirely disappeared.

    For me, in the workhorse, 19th century, late classical and romantic orchestral music Karajan, usually with the Berlin Philharmonic, sometimes with the VPO, always provides enjoyment. I sometimes will appreciate an individual performance of a piece, e.g. Carlos Kleiber's legendary Beethoven 5th and 7th, over Karajan; but I can always pick a Karajan/BPO recording of the core orchestral canon and thoroughly enjoy it. Indeed I will often prefer it over all others. For example, while I will occasionally mix in some Markevitch or Mravinsky recordings of the Tchaikovsky symphonies, I will always thoroughly enjoy and often prefer Karajan's recording of the same.

    So has Karajan been rehabilitated? Are you too a fan of Karajan?

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Uh, oh..................

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    Senior Member Brahmsianhorn's Avatar
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    I agree 100%. Not usually my top choice, but often near the top. Reliable interpretations in good if not great sound quality.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Haziz, I grudge you nothing for starting this thread, but threads with this topic seem to unswervingly devolve into flame wars for reasons beyond my comprehension. I have no idea why he is so controversial compared to other conductors. But to answer your question - I am not a “fan” of Karajan, but I consider his style to work very well in many composers, and not so well in others. His Beethoven, Bruckner, and Strauss is certainly among the finest, if not the greatest put to record in the stereo era. Other recordings of his that I love include the Prokofiev 5, his Ravel disc with the Paris Orchestra, and his Second Viennese School recordings. For the most part even when I don’t care for a Karajan recording I think he is worth hearing, even with his stereo Sibelius symphonies that I utterly cannot stand.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    I would consider myself a fan, but more in the "enthusiast" vein than the "fanatic" original meaning of the term. I find HvK/BPO/VPO recordings to be a great starting point for most things in the repertoire, and many of them are my favorites of a given piece. I bought a Karajan Box as my first deep dive into classical.

    But I'd like to think I'm still open-minded enough to recognize when one of his recordings just isn't working (e.g. Bach, 80s Planets). I try to find an alternative reading for comparison on my very favorite pieces (e.g. Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Tchaikovsky cycles, Bach concertos), though many of the HvK/BPO renditions are still are my first choice (I am open to the idea that "imprinting" accounts for some of this). I have found no need to try an alternative on his Strauss or his Bruckner. Those readings are utterly convincing to me.
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; May-29-2020 at 20:23.

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by haziz View Post
    A few years ago it was fashionable to diss Karajan, or at least to try to diminish his musical standing. I perceive that that trend has to some extent ameliorated, but not entirely disappeared.

    For me, in the workhorse, 19th century, late classical and romantic orchestral music Karajan, usually with the Berlin Philharmonic, sometimes with the VPO, always provides enjoyment. I sometimes will appreciate an individual performance of a piece, e.g. Carlos Kleiber's legendary Beethoven 5th and 7th, over Karajan; but I can always pick a Karajan/BPO recording of the core orchestral canon and thoroughly enjoy it. Indeed I will often prefer it over all others. For example, while I will occasionally mix in some Markevitch or Mravinsky recordings of the Tchaikovsky symphonies, I will always thoroughly enjoy and often prefer Karajan's recording of the same.

    So has Karajan been rehabilitated? Are you too a fan of Karajan?
    Haziz, if you are so inclined, I welcome you to peruse and participate in The Grand Karajan Review Thread.

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    Senior Member D Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewWeflen View Post
    Haziz, if you are so inclined, I welcome you to peruse and participate in The Grand Karajan Review Thread.
    I'll second that, one of the best threads on TC in recent memory. @OP Karajan has never needed any rehabilitation here, his recordings have been a mainstay for nearly as long as my enjoyment of classical music.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by D Smith View Post
    I'll second that, one of the best threads on TC in recent memory. @OP Karajan has never needed any rehabilitation here, his recordings have been a mainstay for nearly as long as my enjoyment of classical music.
    Yes I would third that. The people who tended to diss Karajan were the second raters who were envious of his success and the critics who are usually second raters anyway. Karajan of course was not only a brilliant conductor but he had a thirst for power and built a huge empire which was perhaps not the best thing. But as a musician and conductor most people would consider him a genius. Of course the sheer quantity of recordings meant that not everything was a blinding success but if you go through his recordings over the years you usually find that at least one recording of most repertoire comes out near the top which is a pretty formidable achievement.Of course the sheer quantity of recordings meant that not everything was a blinding success but if you go through his recordings over the years you usually find that at least one recording of most repertoire comes out near the top which is a pretty formidable achievement. he caused a sensation with the Philarmonia after the war. Playing like it has never been heard in Britain before. These recordings are worth seeking out and then of course came the classic recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. Of course Karajan not the only way of doing things but he did bring an exceptional electricity at his best.
    Last edited by DavidA; May-29-2020 at 20:55.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    I'm more of an enthusiast of Karajan than a fan. There's a lot of repertoire he was great at: much of the central Austrian/German canon (Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, R. Strauss), and he did very well in certain early 20th c. repertoire as well, such as in Sibelius and a few other specific pieces, such as Mahler 9, the music of Schönberg, Berg, and Webern, Shostakovich 10, and Prokofiev 5. He was better than average (and sometimes better than expected) at repertoire like Debussy's La Mer, or Tchaikovsky. He could be a top-shelf opera conductor as well, with legendary recordings of works like Pagliacci as well as Wagner.

    So that's a huge legacy, and should be rightly acclaimed.

    But every conductor has their weak spots, and he had his. For one example, I couldn't live with his Mozart; it's just too heavy too often. And not that many of his recordings are truly the first I turn to, as much as I like them. But he was at his best in something like Richard Strauss, so that remains a top choice for me, as well as Sibelius 4 and 6, or Bruckner 7.
    Last edited by Knorf; May-29-2020 at 21:12.

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    Not a fan in the sense that I collect all of his many, many recordings. But I do have a lot, two biographies, several videos. His importance and vision for the development of recorded music is significant. He sensed early on that video presentations of concerts will be the future. He made the most of it and really helped popularize it. I couldn't care less that he was a Nazi. Of all the Ring cycles I have, I still prefer his over any of them. I am a Fanboy of Paul Paray, Bruno Walter and Pierre Monteux. I wish there was a living conductor that I felt strongly about, but there just isn't.

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    Karajan recordings I consider to be very good are Bruckner: Symphony #8 (with the VPO); Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (w/Rene Kollo/Christa Ludwig/BPO); Shostakovich: Symphony #10 (w/BPO); Sibelius: VC (w/Christian Ferras/BPO); Sibelius: Symphony #4 (w/BPO); Beethoven's Triple Concerto, both the one he did with the USSR All-Stars (Oistrakh/Rostropovich/Richter), as well as, the one he did with the younger generation (Mutter/Ma/Zeltser); Holst's Planets (w/BPO); Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony (w/BPO, 1st recording ever made for CD); Wagner's Siegfried Idyll (w/VPO), and, interestingly, Ravel's Bolero (w/BPO), and Vivaldi's Four Seasons (w/in-house violinnst, Michel Schwalbe/BPO).

    Karajan never slowed down and even seemed to get better with age, always advancing and perfecting his musical vision, and most of K's finest recordings seem to come from his final decade. In contrast, his contemporary and rival, Leonard Bernstein, seemed to produce the bulk of his most thrilling recordings earlier in his career (the Columbia recordings) with the later recordings (The DG recordings) being hit or miss.
    Last edited by Coach G; May-29-2020 at 21:38.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    I'm just now listening through Karajan's Ring cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre so far, and I love it. So good! I'll be returning to it often.

    There are plenty of living conductors fully worthy of comparison to the past. To say otherwise is really just prejudicial.

    Examples: Simone Young's Bruckner is competitive with anyone, and so is Blomstedt's Leipzig cycle. I find every bit as much enjoyment in Immerseel's Beethoven as any past cycles, and would say the same for Gardiner's Mendelssohn with the LSO and Chailly's Brahms with Leipzig. Okko Kamu's Sibelius with Lahti, Iván Fischer's Mahler in Budapest: all fully competitive with past favorites. I could go on...

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    Honegger 3. Enough said.

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    I second the emotion on Immerseel, as well as Gardiner's, Beethoven. I'm not as big a fan of Gardiner's Mendelssohn. Too fast for my taste. Immerseel's Schubert is really good, too. Chailly usually turns in creditable recordings of the greats, as well. One might tag Rattle with the "pedestrian" label, but whenever I've listened to his recordings I've never felt like my time had been wasted. Colin Davis (I'm aware he died recently) is one whom I've never disliked a recording of, and I think his Sibelius and Nielsen are top shelf. I was very much impressed by Michael Sanderling's Shostakovich cycle with the Dresdner Philharmonie. I will be looking into some more of his recordings. Janowski's Wagner is first rate, as well. Trevor Pinnock simply can't be beat in the Baroque repertoire.

    LSO's online store is a great resource for some of these more modern recordings (e.g. past 20 years) in great digital sound. I highly recommend them.
    Last edited by MatthewWeflen; May-29-2020 at 22:02.

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    I generally prefer other conductors: Abbado, Klemperar, and Herreweghe. But Karajan is nothing to sneeze at.

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