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Sym 7 Original recording remastered, Import


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1. I. Allegro moderato
2. II. Adagio (Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam)
3. III. Scherzo (Sehr schnell) & Trio (Etwas langsamer)
4. IV. Finale (Bewegt, doch nicht schnell)

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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Unforced Eloquence Feb. 5 2008
By Johannes Climacus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is the earliest of Karajan's three recordings of Bruckner's Seventh (the first two with BPO, the last--the conductor's final recording--with the VPO), and it is clearly superior to his later versions. The sound is warmer than the DG/BPO recording, and so is the interpretation. The DG/VPO version, on the other hand, strikes me as too soft-centered, closer to Bruno Walter's way with the composer than we might have expected from Karajan.

The EMI/BPO version, therefore, is the one to get; indeed, it is the most eloquent rendition of this work I have heard. It's difficult to ruin the opening of the symphony, with its seamless melodic arches, but in Karajan's hands it is simply magical: hushed, intense, never pushing ahead too aggressively or interrupting the flow with gratuitious rubato or agogic distortions. And the spell continues unbroken from that point to the end of the movement. The great Adagio is less a funeral observance for Richard Wagner (which is presumably what Bruckner intended) than a threnody for a world in need of redemption, a heavenly Mass for All Souls. The scherzo interrupts these rites with an impertinent cockcrow, conveying a sense of tingling anticipation; dawn is at hand. The finale, which can seem the weakest of the four movements in lesser performances, blossoms as its should without overbalancing the rapt first movement and weighty Adagio; it neither seems perfunctory nor outstays its welcome.

In sum, this is something like a complete realization of Bruckner's most accessible symphony. Karajan's DG version is also a strong performance, but some of the magic had gone out of his conception by the time he had come to revisit the score. The expressive nuances Karajan discovers in the EMI version seem utterly natural; whereas the eloquence in the DG version seems a bit forced. The EMI has another great advantage: it costs a tiny fraction of what you would have to pay to obtain the 10-CD set from DG--now available only as an expensive import-- in which the later version of the Seventh is immured.

Don't hesitate then, if you are new to Bruckner; and if you are a veteran collector, there is every reason to add this one to your collection.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Exceptionally Beautiful Aug. 10 2006
By dv_forever - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I am very thankful that Karajan got a chance to record with EMI during the seventies, continuing their relationship which dates back to the 1940's. During the seventies, EMI generally gave Karajan much better sound than his main recording company Deutsche Grammophon. EMI gave Karajan that gorgeous, lush, wide-ranging aura that I find utterly intoxicating and which can be proven just by listening to this outstanding Bruckner record.

There is no doubt that Karajan is in a class by himself in this symphony with few competitors. Obviously Furtwangler comes to mind, can Karajan compete with that master in terms of raw emotion and spiritual power? I'm here to tell you that Karajan succeeds marvelously. Karajan's Bruckner 7th is not superficial and not merely concerned with surface beauty and gloss like in later performances. No, everything sounds gorgeous but is also deeply moving. The famous adagio is magnificent, a true testament to Karajan's art and of course Bruckner's.

Although the earlier reviewer praises Karajan's digital Bruckner 7th with the Vienna Philharmonic, I must strongly disagree. Not only was the Berlin Philharmonic of the seventies a better orchestra than the Vienna Philharmonic of the eighties but EMI gives them outstanding sound quality while the DG record has some of the typical digital glare that DG was famous for in the 80's. The DG recording is also more expensive.

This EMI recording sounds perfect and is played to perfection, don't miss out on this opportunity to own possibly the finest version of this symphony. If you have the earlier Karajan Edition version, guess what, this is the exact same recording and the exact same remastering, there is nothing new, trust me. But since it always sounded great, there is nothing to complain about except EMI's nagging hobby of repackaging the exact same product.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Magical performance May 17 2008
By J. Grant - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I will admit that I'm not that fond of Karajan as a conductor, in general. His R. Strauss is very good as is most of his Sibelius and some of his Tchaikovsky. However, his Beethoven (excepting his 9th & 5th) and Brahms make me feel as though I'm breaking out in hives. So, I wasn't that optimistic about listening to his Bruckner. I do think his 8th is a bit overrated, but this is one of the finest 7ths I've ever heard, along with Bohm's live 1977 (Bavarian Radio SO), Furtwangler's Berlin (beter sound than Cairo or Rome, all with the BPO from circa 1949-50) and Knappertsbusch's 1949 VPO. Those are the only performances of this symphony I've heard that gave me goose-bumps and sent a chill up my spine. It (Karajan's) is certainly good enough to make me want to look back and check which version of the 8th of his it was that I listened to, and give the other one a try to see if I missed something
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Karajan and the Bruckner Seventh - three choices May 23 2009
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Karajan was considered by many to be the dominant Bruckner conductor of the postwar era - although there are strong partisans of Celibidache, Jochum, and Gunter Wand. Whatever cavils there are about his interpretations, there's no arguing the splendor of Karajan's approach, his technical mastery, and the grandeur of the orchestral playing his evoked. In the case of the Seventh Sym. we have three choices, dating between 1971 and 1989, in other words from the summit of his career to a few months before his death.

Berlin Phil., 1971 (EMI) -- Beginning at the beginning is a good idea in this case, because the first Seventh from Karajan is nothing less than stupendous. Recorded in the Berliners' best venue, Jesus Christus Kirche, this recording comes across with overwhelming force. The perspective is a bit too distant, however, and there's considerable reverberation, but Karajan favored such a sound to capture the grand sweep of his interpreation. At the softer extreme of dynamics, this account can hardly be bettered for refinement. The combination of power and delicacy sets Karajan's Bruckner apart, even if critics complained about a lack of soul, whatever that evanescent quality means. Total timing is 68 min., making tis the slowest of his three recordings. However, since the differences are half a minute here and there, one cannot point to an exceptionally fast or slow movement in any of them. My only serious objection to this magnificent account is that the fortissimo climaxes are brutal on the ear, thanks in part to the engineering (typical of Karajan's releases at the time, the dynamics vary from softer than soft to crushingly loud) but also to the conductor's desire to produce superhuman impact from the massed Berlin brasses.

Berlin, 1975 (DG) --One immediately senses that this is going to be a more propulsive, overtly dramatic reading, and it comes as no surprise that it's also Karajan's fastest overall, at 64 min. The sound, as caught in the Philhamronie, is more up front, with clearer woodwinds than before, but the brass are far away. As in 1971, I was struck by one of Karajan's greatest gifts, his ability to hold Bruckner's vast movements together, making them more coherently unified than anyone else can, except for Furtwangler, who at his best could apply more varied emotion and singular depth without losing the moving line (it's telling that Furtwangler considered the Seventh Bruckner's only work that was structurally not disjointed or flawed). I'm happy that the brass climaxes aren't crushing, but DG's engineering produces some congestion and microphone shatter at fortissimo levels.

Vienna, 1989 (DG) -- The farewell Seventh was also a valedictory for the aged conductor. Having split under rancorous circumstances from Berlin a few years earlier, Karajan's last phase is strange and touching: just as his powers were flagging, he let go of his tight control; this perfectly suited the Vienna Phil., which gave him more warmth and openness than he usually got. Not that this Seventh trundles along; at 66 min. it sits between the fastest and slowest renditions. There's no falling off in intrpretation. I don't know why the Bruckner Eighth, also made during this period, gained far more acclaim than the Seventh. It is more human in scale than the earlier two Sevenths, with an ordinary sonic perspective rather than the Shea Stadium sound they have. Being digital, there's no microphone distortion in the biggest climaxes, either. The only thing missing -- and this may be a major absence -- is the nuance of the earlier readings and most especially, the delicacy in soft passages. For all the orchestra can do, and despite Karajan's stature in Bruckner, this reading is a touch generic.

Which, then, to choose? If I were to own only one Karajan version, I'd go for Berlin 1975 because of its absolute command. Berlin 1971 is too artificially miked, and Vienna 1989 (my second choice) is perhaps too autumnal -- as with late Bruno Walter, one senses great affection and an undeniable rightness, yet the technical side isn't at its peak. But these are personal judgments, and no one could go wrong with any of these releases.

P.S. - An astute commenter points out an editing mistake in the finale. I followed with full score, and three bars are indeed omitted. Beginning at letter C, they consist of seven half notes in the violin line, which are stated once, then repeated, then repeated again with a flourish at the end. In this recording, the first repeat has been left out by mistake.

This mistake was perpetuated through later releases labeled as Karajan Edition, apparently, and when brought to their attention, EMI paid no attention. I don't know of any subsequent correction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
As Beautiful as it Can Be Oct. 21 2008
By Andre Gauthier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
With this 1971 von Karajan EMI recording there's no great struggle taking place, no pushing and pulling. Karajan's 7th is instantly recognizable because he always kept the Furtwängler sound; he removed any quirks of individualism - any individualism other than his own. With the beautifully groomed Berlin Philharmonic the vast Brucknerian phrases sweep one into the next. EMI captures this mammoth undertaking by matching their approach to Karajan's. The sound is richer than their usual orchestral recordings. A well experienced listener would probably blurt out "Karajan!" without a second thought if asked who the mastermind was behind this gorgeous musical feast. Karajan is guilty of making such beautiful music that one forgets who the composer is from time to time. So, is that good or bad for Bruckner? Today that question verges on the rhetorical.

This recording evinces an organ like quality. That is certainly a Brucknerian ideal, isn't it? It sometimes feels as though Karajan is pulling out stops or changing manuals and opening and closing swells. The quality of the orchestral balance is breathtaking. Would Bruckner have liked it? It's a reasonable question to ask, because the "mix" is primarily due to the near tangible acoustic that surrounds the orchestra. I think this is a valid way to do the seventh. Carnegie or Royal Festival Hall doesn't afford us this sort of spatial sense. How else are we going to hear Bruckner in a way that might approximate the man's "inner ear"?

Even though I enjoy this performance there's still that nagging question. Is this approach appropriate to the music and its composer's intentions? There's not a shrill moment from any quarter. Even with the climax of the adagio, the percussion is part of a whole, not an "added" feature that would over shadow that great moment. Talk about gravitas!

Compare Karajan's to Barbirolli's idea of the Seventh; it's from a completely different world than the British maestro's. (I'm going as far in the other direction as I can think of right now.) I find Barbirolli has the greater sense of Brucknerian drama on his BBC recording. The Halle Orchestra is scrappy, to say the least, and the conductor is never content to revel in beauteous sonorities. Versions by Kubelik, Giulini, or Jochum - the list is very large indeed - could all be used for solid comparison to this monolithic reading. Even Karajan's other versions don't have quite this enormity of scale.

For those who love the sheer sensuality that is embedded in Bruckner's symphonic output this CD is nothing short of a must have. If on the other hand you prefer a leaner kind of approach, spend you money and time on something else. Personally, I'll listen to it again but not soon. I'll be full from this musical feast for a very long time.


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