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Discussion: Beethoven: Symphonies - Karajan (1963)

Posts: 17
Page: 1 2 next

Post by Chris August 26, 2014 (1 of 17)
Hello Joseph Ponessa,
While I share a lot of your enthusiasm for this set for basically the same reasons as you do, and even wrote an enthusiastic review when the set was released on SACD, I now have some reservations both regarding the recordings which at least on LP and SACD are not quite as good to me on a full range electrostatic speaker system and more revealing headphones too than I had in 2004.
I certainly now hear both the harshness and not quite SOTA SQ even for the early 60s and with many other more recent sets to compare with I also have a bit of a problem with the fact that Karajan had both first and second violins clumped together instead of as Beethoven surely intended. But I agree that the playing of the BPO is still some of the best ever recorded. And NO other either live or recorded performance of the ninth I have heard whips up the orgiastic/orgasmic jubilation as Karajan and is Berliners did in 1963 in the final bars of the mighty ninth imo.
The only other time I have heard it that way was from Karajan and the BPO live in Vienna at The Wiener Festwochen in 1970. Those concerts still stand out as very special indeed.
Regarding this new bluray set I suspect that they have used the same 24/96 re- mastering as they did for the SACDs.And I also suspect the harshness from massed strings is an effect of a bit too close spot/multimiking employed by Günther Hermanns by then.
I have some earlier recordings made by the same engineer that are not as harsh.
Notably Haydn symphonies with the same orchestra under Jochum and Beethoven's violin concerto with Schneiderhan.
Some early 1960s DGG LPs are balancing-wise as good as Living Stereo or EMI Blumlein's from the same period.
In other words still SOTA in that respect and rarely rivalled even today.

Unfortunately for the Beethoven set they resorted to multi multi miking.
Personally I am a bit tempted to try the Karajan Philharmonia set instead.
Cheers Chris

Post by onenairb August 26, 2014 (2 of 17)
Does anyone own the vinyl? There is a copy of the vinyl box set (same cover) in my local Oxfam which I inspected and seams to be in very good condition. Should I purchase?

Post by Joseph Ponessa August 26, 2014 (3 of 17)
Chris said:

The only other time I have heard it that way was from Karajan and the BPO live in Vienna at The Wiener Festwochen in 1970. Those concerts still stand out as very special indeed.

For many years I had a CD of the 1970 Ninth that you heard in Vienna. It was pressed in Italy on the Natise label [HVK 112] and when I tried to play it again several years ago, it had gone blank! There have been only two CDs in my collection that have done that. For some reason I had made a back-up CD copy and so had not lost the recording.

Of the four possible repeats in the Vivace movement of the Ninth, Karajan usually takes only the last two (as in 1970), but in the 1962 recording he took the first, third and fourth — he simply did not repeat the Trio.

You mentioned an interest in getting the Philharmonia cycle, which has been reissued in a very fine transfer. I certainly recommend it, but the new blu-ray of the 1962 cycle has tipped the scale in its favor for me.

Post by Chris August 26, 2014 (4 of 17)
onenairb said:

Does anyone own the vinyl? There is a copy of the vinyl box set (same cover) in my local Oxfam which I inspected and seams to be in very good condition. Should I purchase?

My LPs are ok but the SACD sounds better and cleaner than the LPs.
If it is sold at a real bargain price,and you don't have the SACD or new bluray under discussion in this thread, I would buy them if they seem to be in mint condition.
I regularly buy super bargain LPs from thrift shops here in Sweden. Yesterday I bought BIS LP 180 in absolutely mint condition for 50 cents €.
Once properly dusted off it was a joy to play.
Very well played popular orchestral "lollipops" by the Stockholm Sinfonietta ranging from Rossini's Silken ladder overture via Hugo Alven and Sibelius to Barber's Adagio for strings.
And recorded in 1981 by a certain Robert von Bahr on a Revox A77 with no dolby and only 4 mics!
Need I say more ?
Ok then,
for those who got into classical firmly in the multimic digital no man's land, one mic per instrument,digital age. This and many other simply miked analogue recordings,at least to my ears used to live music, present a better more realistic presentation of how an orchestra sounds live in a real concert hall, than many even high res digital ones recorded these days. In this case in the rich and warm acoustics of the Stockholm Concert Hall.
And string sound above all is airy and realistic in a way that few digital recordings even at high res deliver.
No digital steeliness whatsoever and via LP I can clearly hear individual players instead of the homogenized unresolved string sound of low res digital.

Unfortunately the same is not quite as true of the Beethoven 1963 set from DGG .
Strings do sound a bit harsh at times there.
Both on LP and SACD

Post by Chris August 26, 2014 (5 of 17)
Joseph Ponessa said:

For many years I had a CD of the 1970 Ninth that you heard in Vienna. It was pressed in Italy on the Natise label [HVK 112] and when I tried to play it again several years ago, it had gone blank! There have been only two CDs in my collection that have done that. For some reason I had made a back-up CD copy and so had not lost the recording.

Of the four possible repeats in the Vivace movement of the Ninth, Karajan usually takes only the last two (as in 1970), but in the 1962 recording he took the first, third and fourth — he simply did not repeat the Trio.

You mentioned an interest in getting the Philharmonia cycle, which has been reissued in a very fine transfer. I certainly recommend it, but the new blu-ray of the 1962 cycle has tipped the scale in its favor for me.

Hi again Joseph,

Do you have both the SACD and the bluray and hear an improvement in string sound between the two or are you relying on memory of the SACD sound?
I still suspect they used the same masters in both cases.
And if so the only difference ought to be between DSD transfer from 24/96 and of course your players for both. But I could be wrong.

Post by Chris August 26, 2014 (6 of 17)
Joseph Ponessa said:

For many years I had a CD of the 1970 Ninth that you heard in Vienna. It was pressed in Italy on the Natise label [HVK 112] and when I tried to play it again several years ago, it had gone blank! There have been only two CDs in my collection that have done that. For some reason I had made a back-up CD copy and so had not lost the recording.

Of the four possible repeats in the Vivace movement of the Ninth, Karajan usually takes only the last two (as in 1970), but in the 1962 recording he took the first, third and fourth — he simply did not repeat the Trio.

You mentioned an interest in getting the Philharmonia cycle, which has been reissued in a very fine transfer. I certainly recommend it, but the new blu-ray of the 1962 cycle has tipped the scale in its favor for me.

I wonder if it is still possible to get it somewhere ?
Maybe as a download these days?
Anyway,one thing I will never forget is the pure soprano voice of Gundula Janowitz soaring heavenly above us from the organ balcony "im Goldenen Saal der Musikverein" that blessed day of my still relatively innocent youth.

Post by onenairb August 26, 2014 (7 of 17)
Chris said:

Anyway,one thing I will never forget is the pure soprano voice of Gundula Janowitz soaring heavenly above us from the organ balcony "im Goldenen Saal der Musikverein" that blessed day of my still relatively innocent youth.

You heard Gundula Janowitz live! How lucky you are. One of the most beautiful sopranos I have ever heard (on disc sadly). I would thoroughly recommend ‘The Golden Voice’
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gundula-Janowitz-The-Golden-Voice/dp/B000BV5RDI
How I’d love DG to release the masters of this on SACD or 24bit download. She has an exquisite voice to the point where some arias have just about brought me to tears.
There are few of her recordings on SACD but of the few recordings we do now have Mozarts ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ as used in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ 4 Great Operas on Deutsche Grammophon & Decca if not a little expensive sadly.

Post by Ubertrout August 26, 2014 (8 of 17)
Chris said:

Regarding this new bluray set I suspect that they have used the same 24/96 re- mastering as they did for the SACDs.And I also suspect the harshness from massed strings is an effect of a bit too close spot/multimiking employed by Günther Hermanns by then.

The SACD edition was sourced from a 24/48 transfer. DGG/Universal has said that this is a new 24/96 transfer. (Edit: I speak incorrectly - the SACDs are from a 24/96 transfer as well).

Oh, and the Philharmonia recordings are available from qobuz in 24-bit, and they're on sale for 14,99 € for the whole cycle: http://www.qobuz.com/fr-fr/album/beethoven-symphonies-nos-1-9-overtures-edition-studio-masters-herbert-von-karajan/0825646244195

Post by Fugue August 26, 2014 (9 of 17)
It would be nice if Amazon US mentioned that the set includes a Blu-ray disc. I get tired of having to fill out their correction forms.

Post by ramesh August 26, 2014 (10 of 17)
Chris said
I also suspect the harshness from massed strings is an effect of a bit too close spot/multimiking employed by Günther Hermanns by then.
I have some earlier recordings made by the same engineer that are not as harsh.
Notably Haydn symphonies with the same orchestra under Jochum and Beethoven's violin concerto with Schneiderhan.

Hi Chris,
I have the SACD set, and recently compared it to this blu ray which a friend brought over.

I noted that Karajan's biographer Richard Osborne wrote this recording sounded 'modern' at the time of its release in 1963, being 'daringly lit' or words to this effect.


There's a two page discussion of this 9th in the September issue of 'Gramophone' magazine. Some selections : 'the precision-tooled regularity of tempo in the first movement is startling, barely allowing for relaxation even where Beethoven prescribes it, say at bar 507 before the final section of the coda. Set against that is a rhythmic slackness to the demisemiquavers in the main dotted rhythm of the first movement and the string parts of the scherzo, sapping force and contrast from Beethoven's motive energy [ … ] For me this hands-off approach to internal dialogue and argument is part of Karajan's search for a unitary interpretation. There's almost no distinction between the two themes of the Adagio- one hymn like, the other songful. Instead you can hear him in the rehearsal excerpts taking great pains to make the second grow seamlessly from the first.'

Putting this all together, I imagine Karajan as a 'legato' conductor, aiming to smooth over and blend textures or phrasing to a greater extent than others. Generally he was able to achieve this while still retaining propulsive energy, though this aspect diminished in many of his later recordings. This extends to the sound quality, as well as in the BPO's playing. Hence some complaints, particularly in his recordings for DG [ all composers ] that many passages for brass or timpani were not as clearly audible as in recordings by others.

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