|Review by Joseph Ponessa August 25, 2014 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
|I listened to the blu-ray of Karajan's 1962 Beethoven cycle in a single day several weeks ago, and am surprised that no one has posted a review. So let me dip my feet into the water and say--what a marvelous blu-ray in every way.
Forty years ago, when I was in graduate school, a friend of mine had the LP set, and I bought a Sony tape recorder and copied all the LPs, listening through headphones as the copies were made. That was my first exposure to the complete Beethoven cycle, and it implanted an idea in my head of what the symphonies should sound like.
Since then I have heard scores of complete cycles, and hundreds of recordings of the Ninth in particular, but something has always escaped me. Even hearing the SACD release of the 1963 cycle didn't do it for me. I never could listen to the whole thing in a whole day, because the sound was harsh, though impressive, because bass-heavy. At last, with the blu-ray, I truly relived my original experience of the Beethoven recordings, the balance of treble and bass set to perfection.
The six-disc set comes with an interesting little book, from which I learned that Karajan trained his Berlin players to listen to each other as if they were a chamber orchestra, and that this was the key to the Karajan sound.
I should say that I am also extremely fond of Cluyten's 1957 recording of the Beethoven cycle with the Berliner Philharmoniker, recently re-released on CD in fabulous stereo sound. These are the same players that recorded Karajan's cycle five years later, and how much their sound continued to depend on Cluytens, and on Furtwängler, is of course debatable. Now that blu-ray has proven that a complete Beethoven cycle will fit comfortably on a single disc and in excellent quality, how many more cycles are waiting to come to us in high resolution -- Weingartner, Mengelberg, Toscanini, Klemperer, Krips, Karajan (Philharmonia), Schuricht -- and I do not even catch up with 1962 yet.
The rehearsal segments are only found on the blu-ray and not on the CDs. I did not even sample the five CDs, because they just came along to my house for the ride and are sitting in the archives now already, gathering dust. I'm sure they are very nice, and I may want to listen to them in my car some time.
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