Top positive review
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A good set
on August 16, 2007
Herbie von K. remains a divisive figure in the musical world, even after his death. It is fair to say that, currently, he is not flavour of the month. Even at the time of this set's first release in the early '60s, the critics criticised Karajan's "glossy and glamorous" reading of Beethoven, made largely possibly by having the best orchestra on the planet under his baton. It was, to use an Australian expression, all show and no go.
Listen to that Fifth. Listen to how quietly Karajan takes the end of the third movement, and how he relentlessly builds the tension until the joyous explosion of the fourth movement. For me, this recording at least matches the famous (and justly praised) Kleiber recording.
Listen to the Ninth. Listen to the delightful touches, to the ting of the triangle in the Turkish March, to the way the piccolo rises out of the orchestra as the volume builds towards the great string run that leads to the final appearance of the famous "Ode to Joy" chorus. And just listen to those strings sing and the way the double basses thunder along underneath it all. If I had to take one Ninth to my desert island, it would be this one.
There are things that are not so good of course. In the Pastoral, in the first movement "feelings of joy on arriving in the country", one can only assume that Karajan is sampling the joys in his Porsche. However, whoever gets a complete set of Beethoven symphonies right, whatever "right" means? Not Karajan, but not anyone else either. In my opinion, this is marvellous music making, in which the good things handily outnumber the bad, and at this price it is irresistible - which is, of course, why I didn't.