3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Generally convincing and satisfying.,
This review is from: Beethoven: 9 Symphonies (1963) (Audio CD)
Sometimes, I have been critical of Karajan's tendency toward muscular, smoothly molded contours, however, I feel this approach melds fairly well with a decent portion of Beethoven's style. I'm certainly not alone when I state that while he satisfies me in some sections of Beethoven, others (i.e. Klemperer, Schuricht and Weingartner) fulfill me in different areas, and indeed in some of the same areas as well. Frankly, I feel there is no "10" among complete sets of the Beethoven Symphonies, though of course many do have their favorites, and aim to stand by them come "hell or high water".
Regarding Karajan's individual performances, his Sixth ("Pastorale") is my least favorite of the lot. I find it bleached of richness and emotional warmth. For those qualities I look to Klemperer, Walter and Abendroth (nla). Elsewhere, the First Symphony is energetic, tuneful and nicely detailed. The Second is quite enjoyable in virtually every aspect. The Third is well paced and proportioned and powerfully executed. Very satisfying, except for the funeral march, which is short on real emotional depth. Not necessarily in order of preference, my choices for the "Eroica" are Szell, Bohm/Vienna and Abendroth. The Fourth provides a nice combination of attractive nuance and incisiveness, but my first picks are Bernstein/NY Philharmonic and Walter/Columbia Symphony. Karajan's Fifth is my all-time favorite. Bold and grand, its tempos and shadings are most convincing. Especially pleasing is the way in which the horns are broadly and sonorously presented, though I wish the cellos in the third movement had more resinous bite. The Seventh is very good, but though emphatically stated and adequately charged, it remains earthbound, never really projecting that kind of Olympian quality I find in Reiner's interpretation with the Chicago Symphony. The Eighth is one of his best efforts. It is incisive and musical, with a nice third movement menuetto that is easy flowing and elegant. In Beethoven's crowning jewel, the Ninth, I'm impressed with Karajan's tremendous drive. Except for a few moments where things almost become a little hectic, I have little to criticize in the first movement. I feel the second movement is a shade too fast. The third seems somewhat shallow in spiritual depth. Early in the last movement, the deep strings are not quite portentous enough. But these are relatively small reservations about an otherwise very fine performance. My current favorites, however, are Reiner/Chicago Symphony (See my coming review.), Stokowski/London Symphony, Fritz Busch's live mono Danish Radio performance and Otto Klemperer's first of two live stereo Ninths released on Testament.