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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Well, I've gone and done it. During my quarantine, I've purchased all three DG Karajan "Decade" box sets, and I've been assiduously ripping the music as FLAC files to my music player, listening over my fancy headphones, scanning the cover art, and forming opinions.

This thread is intended to be a review of Karajan's DG output. I will post information about each recording, a high quality cover image, and a short review of each, with a final score of 1 to 10. Where applicable, I will compare Karajan's other recordings of the same work. Maybe if I have other renditions, I will compare it against them, though that is not my primary intent. I do not want this to inspire any urinating matches between fans of this or that conductor/orchestra, and I really want this to be more like a database.

So here is my first review.

1960's Disc 1
LP#138025 (18 500)


Font Book Blazer Suit Publication


Ein Heldenleben, op. 40
composed by R. Strauss

Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Michel Schwalbe, violin soloist
Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 2-4 March 1959
Executive Producer: Hans Ritter
Recording Producer: Werner Wolf
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 45:40

Review:

Karajan's first recording with Deutsche Grammophon, this is a truly sensational beginning to a long, famous, and profitable relationship. This reading differs very little from Karajan's 70s and 80s recordings, with very similar tempii. The main differences are in aspects of the recording. This recording (in the box set OIBP remaster) is quite dynamic and has good bass. There is a small amount of analog tape hiss, but it is not terribly obtrusive and is easy enough to tune out, except during the quieter moments of the 5th movement. The orchestral sound is more unified and less spot-miked than the later recordings, especially the 80s. With that said, the percussion is not recessed, which is to my liking. The solo playing by Schwalbe is top shelf. Sonically, I'd have to give the nod to the 1970s recording. Overall, though, this is an extremely engaging recording with a very nice rendition of the piece.

Rating: 9/10

Video:


 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·

1960's Disc 2
LP#138080 (18 610)


Plant Font Poster Publication History


Hungarian Dances, WoO 1 (nos. 5,6,17,3,1,20,19,18)
composed by Johannes Brahms
Slavonic Dances (nos. 1,10,3,16,7)
composed by Antonin Dvorak


Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 4 September 1959
Executive Producer: Elsa Schiller
Recording Producer: Werner Wolf
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 43:51

Review:


This rendition of various of Brahms' Hungarian Dances and Dvorak's Slavic dances is very peppy. My kids love listening to this recording. I can say that the faster dances are among the peppiest tempo recordings I've heard of them. Sonically, this one is a bit less impressive than the previous Heldenleben. Analog tape noise is a bit more pronounced. With that said, the recording still has some nice dynamic range and bass response. Percussion is clear, and the triangle comes through nicely. Overall, very enjoyable, though it sounds its age to some degree.

Rating: 8/10

Video:

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
1960's Disc 3
LP#138692 (18 692)

Horse Organism Font Poster Art


Liszt: Mazeppa (S100), Hungarian Rhapsody No 5 (S395/5), Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Melodies (S 123), Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4 (S359/4)

Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Shura Cherkassky, Piano (3)

Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 12-13 December 1960 (2-3) and 16-17 February 1961 (1/4)
Executive Producers: Hans Ritter (2) Elsa Schiller (1/3), Otto Gerdes (4)
Recording Producers: Hans Ritter (3/4) Otto Gerdes (1)
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 57:41

Review:

Wow, I don't know what they figured out between 1959 and late 1960, but the sound quality on these recordings is stellar. Bass is deep and resonant, analog hiss is very tame, and the overall quality of sound is exceptional. The renditions of these pieces are brisk and exciting with a lot of patriotic feeling. The cover image is aptly chosen, because for much of this run-time, what's on offer is thrilling. Slower passages, such as in the finale of Rhapsody No. 5, are really excellent. The piano on the Rhapsody on Hungaran Folk Melodies is terrific. All in all, a thrill ride from beginning to end. I find it interesting that Karajan and DG chose two Hungarian-themed sets, as well as Slavonic and, in the next release, French music. Whatever was behind it, they really came out swinging with numerous exciting recordings in a row.

Rating: 10/10

Video:
 

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1960's Disc 3
LP#138692 (18 692)

View attachment 135564

Liszt: Mazeppa (S100), Hungarian Rhapsody No 5 (S395/5), Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Melodies (S 123), Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4 (S359/4)

Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Shura Cherkassky, Piano (3)

Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 12-13 December 1960 (2-3) and 16-17 February 1961 (1/4)
Executive Producers: Hans Ritter (2) Elsa Schiller (1/3), Otto Gerdes (4)
Recording Producers: Hans Ritter (3/4) Otto Gerdes (1)
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 57:41

Review:

Wow, I don't know what they figured out between 1959 and late 1960, but the sound quality on these recordings is stellar. Bass is deep and resonant, analog hiss is very tame, and the overall quality of sound is exceptional. The renditions of these pieces are brisk and exciting with a lot of patriotic feeling. The cover image is aptly chosen, because for much of this run-time, what's on offer is thrilling. Slower passages, such as in the finale of Rhapsody No. 5, are really excellent. The piano on the Rhapsody on Hungaran Folk melodies is terrific. All in all, a thrill ride from beginning to end. I find it interesting that Karajan and DG chose two Hungarian-themed sets, as well as Slavonic and, in the next release, French music. Whatever was behind it, they really came out swinging with numerous exciting recordings in a row.

Rating: 10/10

Video:
I have this - Cherkassky'splaying is fabulous!
 

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1960's Disc 3
LP#138692 (18 692)

View attachment 135564

Liszt: Mazeppa (S100), Hungarian Rhapsody No 5 (S395/5), Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Melodies (S 123), Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4 (S359/4)

Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Shura Cherkassky, Piano (3)

Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 12-13 December 1960 (2-3) and 16-17 February 1961 (1/4)
Executive Producers: Hans Ritter (2) Elsa Schiller (1/3), Otto Gerdes (4)
Recording Producers: Hans Ritter (3/4) Otto Gerdes (1)
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 57:41

Review:

Wow, I don't know what they figured out between 1959 and late 1960, but the sound quality on these recordings is stellar. Bass is deep and resonant, analog hiss is very tame, and the overall quality of sound is exceptional. The renditions of these pieces are brisk and exciting with a lot of patriotic feeling. The cover image is aptly chosen, because for much of this run-time, what's on offer is thrilling. Slower passages, such as in the finale of Rhapsody No. 5, are really excellent. The piano on the Rhapsody on Hungaran Folk melodies is terrific. All in all, a thrill ride from beginning to end. I find it interesting that Karajan and DG chose two Hungarian-themed sets, as well as Slavonic and, in the next release, French music. Whatever was behind it, they really came out swinging with numerous exciting recordings in a row.

Rating: 10/10

Video:
:tiphat:

I am with DavidA... also have this "Liszt Orchestral works (DG 2 Cd edition)" and indeed sound and interpretation are fabulous!!
 

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Agreed. Thank you, MatthewWeflen, for creating this. It's an interesting thread, and I will be following your reviews with interest! I'm on record as being a fan of the 1959 Ein Heldenleben, but you're causing me to realize there are other recordings from that time, roughly, that I've not heard but would probably really enjoy.

I am also pleased the usual Karajan haters haven't shown up, yet. I imagine they will make an appearance at some point, but for now it's peaceful.
 

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Agreed. Thank you, MatthewWeflen, for creating this. It's an interesting thread, and I will be following your reviews with interest! I'm on record as being a fan of the 1959 Ein Heldenleben, but you're causing me to realize there are other recordings from that time, roughly, that I've not heard but would probably really enjoy.

I am also pleased the usual Karajan haters haven't shown up, yet. I imagine they will make an appearance at some point, but for now it's peaceful.
I have the later EMI Heldenleben. I don't know how it compares with the earlier one
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Agreed. Thank you, MatthewWeflen, for creating this. It's an interesting thread, and I will be following your reviews with interest! I'm on record as being a fan of the 1959 Ein Heldenleben, but you're causing me to realize there are other recordings from that time, roughly, that I've not heard but would probably really enjoy.

I am also pleased the usual Karajan haters haven't shown up, yet. I imagine they will make an appearance at some point, but for now it's peaceful.
I will be refraining from claiming that any Karajan recordings are superior, so hopefully that will reduce the typical HvK bashing. I am planning only to mention alternative recordings as preferable to these.

I should have 2 more up tonight :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
1960's Disc 4
LP#136 257 (19 257)


Poster Dance Ballet tutu Art Font


Leo Delibes Coppelia Balet Suite
Frederic Chopin Les Sylphides
Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra

Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 25-28 April 1961
Recording Producer: Hans Weber
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 55:58

Review:

These pieces were unfamiliar to me. They are whimsical and bright, and very "pops" to my ears. They are well-played and well-recorded. The prelude to Coppelia (which is the highlight of the disc for me) has an almost Wagnerian feel to the horn intro and has some very nice bass parts, and then when things get more rollicking about halfway through, percussion and brass do not drown out any other parts. Analog hiss is well controlled overall. The Chopin was not terribly memorable to me, but I can't speak to whether alternative versions are better.

Rating: 7/10

Video:

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
1960's Disc 5
LP#138 767 (18 767)


Font Art Book Poster Book cover


Mozart Requiem K626
Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Wilma Lipp, soprano
Hilde Rossel-Majdan, contralto
Anton Dermota, tenor
Walter Berry, bass
Wiener Singverein, chorus
Chorus Master: Reinhold Schmid


Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 5-12 October 1961
Executive Producer: Otto Gerdes
Recording Producer: Otto Gerdes
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 56:07

Review:

The Introitus is enveloping and amazing. Wilma Lipp is excellent and I think surpasses Anna Tomowa-Sintow in both her 70s and 80s recordings with HvK. The Dies Irae in this recording lacks just a little bit of punch for my tastes, and is surpassed by the 1980s recording with the VPO. It's not poorly played or sung by any means, and I think it comes down to recording. Overall, however, this is a top shelf rendition of the Requiem and doesn't fail to pull me in. This is a tough call between the 80s and 60s, and I think the 60s gets the edge because of the resonant bass and the vocalists (Walter Berry's and Anton Dermota's Tuba Mirum is also superlative).

Rating: 9/10

Video:

 

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1960's Disc 5
LP#138 767 (18 767)


View attachment 135627

Mozart Requiem K626
Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Wilma Lipp, soprano
Hilde Rossel-Majdan, contralto
Anton Dermota, tenor
Walter Berry, bass
Wiener Singverein, chorus
Chorus Master: Reinhold Schmid


Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 5-12 October 1961
Executive Producer: Otto Gerdes
Recording Producer: Otto Gerdes
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 56:07

Review:

The Introitus is enveloping and amazing. Wilma Lipp is excellent and I think surpasses Anna Tomowa-Sintow in both her 70s and 80s recordings with HvK. The Dies Irae in this recording lacks just a little bit of punch for my tastes, and is surpassed by the 1980s recording with the VPO. It's not poorly played or sung by any means, and I think it comes down to recording. Overall, however, this is a top shelf rendition of the Requiem and doesn't fail to pull me in. This is a tough call between the 80s and 60s, and I think the 60s gets the edge because of the resonant bass and the vocalists (Walter Berry's and Anton Dermota's Tuba Mirum is also superlative).

Rating: 9/10

Video:

I had this n LP many years ago and had much pleasure out of listening to it
 

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1960's Disc 5
LP#138 767 (18 767)


View attachment 135627

Mozart Requiem K626
Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra
Wilma Lipp, soprano
Hilde Rossel-Majdan, contralto
Anton Dermota, tenor
Walter Berry, bass
Wiener Singverein, chorus
Chorus Master: Reinhold Schmid


Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 5-12 October 1961
Executive Producer: Otto Gerdes
Recording Producer: Otto Gerdes
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 56:07

Review:

The Introitus is enveloping and amazing. Wilma Lipp is excellent and I think surpasses Anna Tomowa-Sintow in both her 70s and 80s recordings with HvK. The Dies Irae in this recording lacks just a little bit of punch for my tastes, and is surpassed by the 1980s recording with the VPO. It's not poorly played or sung by any means, and I think it comes down to recording. Overall, however, this is a top shelf rendition of the Requiem and doesn't fail to pull me in. This is a tough call between the 80s and 60s, and I think the 60s gets the edge because of the resonant bass and the vocalists (Walter Berry's and Anton Dermota's Tuba Mirum is also superlative).

Rating: 9/10

Video:

This is the LP and then CD I got to know this work!!! Thanks to my parents!!!
My taste has since moved in other directions, but I still keep a CD copy of it for reference...
 

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I admit Karajan's Mozart Requiem is one bit of his repertoire than does not suit my tastes. Certainly if you're looking for a monumental concept for that piece, Karajan's take will probably be one you'd like. And the lyrical, singing moments are undeniably gorgeous.

But I sold my copy long ago.
 

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I admit Karajan's Mozart Requiem is one bit of his repertoire than does not suit my tastes. Certainly if you're looking for a monumental concept for that piece, Karajan's take will probably be one you'd like. And the lyrical, singing moments are undeniably gorgeous.

But I sold my copy long ago.
He did a great C minor mass with Barbara Henricks, but his Requiem is not one of my favorites. I prefer Bohm and even the idiosyncratic Bernstein in the "heavy" category for this work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
1960's Disc 6
LP#138 801 (18 801)

Sleeve Gesture Font Poster Book cover


Beethoven Symphony 1 op.21
Beethoven Symphony 2 op.36
Berlin Philharmonic, orchestra


Recorded at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 27-28 December 1961 (Sym. 1), 30 December 1961 (Sym. 2)
Executive Producer: Elsa Schiller
Recording Producer: Otto Gerdes
Balance Engineer: Gunter Hermanns
Total time: 56:21

Review:

Symphony 1 starts off nice and briskly, tempo-wise. Both of the 70s and 80s renditions are faster, however. The brass near the end of the first movement (9:01 in the appended recording) are too recessed for my liking. The same goes for the tympani in most spots. I know there are some who disdain more aggressive spot miking, but personally, having heard these symphonies in person (with the CSO), I know that orchestra hall sound can allow for much more separated instrumental parts than this. Symphony 2 comes off a little better in this regard than 1. The overall sound quality is very good, with minimal hiss and some nice acoustics from the Church setting. It is easy to see why these recordings caused such a sensation upon their premiere - the sound quality is light years ahead of prior recordings that I've heard. For my money, on both symphonies, the order of preference would be 70s--->60s---->80s, but they're not all that different in terms of interpretation. The 70s sound is just superior. As an aside, the cover art is... unfortunately posed.
Rating: 8/10

Video:
 
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