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Karajan's greatness marred by DG's recording techniques
on March 14, 2004
Herbert von Karajan made many dearly beloved recordings of some or all of Brahms symphonies several times in his lifetime. Two complete sets are worth noting more than the others though. The recordings heard on the set reviewed here, and the recordings made in the 1960s. The set reviewed here was made in the late 1970s. At that time, DG was in the habit of using very close microphone techniques. Someone there thought "the more the merrier" and placed microphones as close to the orchestra as possible. The result is a sound that is very dry, almost entirely lacking in accoustic reverb. I dread listening to these recordings. They seem one dimensional. There is no depth. For example, the listener cannot tell if the timpani is right in front of the conductor, or in the back of the orchestra. The 1960s recordings are entirely different matter. They sound warm, three dimensional, lifelike in comparison to the 1970s. The 1960s recordings are not completely available as a set, to my knowledge. You can get #2 and #3 together (Amazon asin # B000001GBU) , but that CD is s very early remastering done in the mid 1980s, and is marred by digital graininess. For a good example of the 1960s set though, get the recording of #1 that is coupled with the Schumann #1 in DGs more recent "The Originals" series (Amazon asin # B000001GQ5). If you love Karajan's Brahms, this is the pinnacle to aim for. If only DG would issue all of the early 1960s Brahms recordings Karajan made, we who love his interpretations would be in heaven.