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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4 5 & Import, Original recording remastered

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 24 2007)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Original recording remastered, Import
  • Label: Warner Classics
  • ASIN: B000NPCMJ4
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Disc: 1
1. I. Andante sostenuto_Moderato con anima
2. II. Andantino in modo di canzone
3. III. Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato, allegro
4. IV. Allegro con fuoco
5. I - Andante - Allegro con anima
6. II - Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza
Disc: 2
1. III - Valse: Allegro moderato
2. IV - Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace
3. Adagio - Allegro con troppo
4. Allegro con grazia
5. Allegro molto vivace
6. Finale - Adagio lamentoso

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa0503264) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fa06f24) out of 5 stars Death and Dissolution Jan. 13 2011
By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Everyone trumpets the glories of the 1976 Herbie / BPO performance but the Minority Report, penned by yours truly, says the following: this September 1971 recording of the Sixth is the best on the market. One advantage it enjoys over 1976 is the acoustic itself: it was recorded in the Jesus Christus Church rather than the dreaded Philharmonie; there is more air around the orchestra, and how well they play and staggeringly so. Oh, that's right: it comes with 4 and 5 which are lesser symphonies in every way. For what they're worth, they are exceedingly well played. Treat them as entrees to the main course of darkness.

There is a saying: anyone can stand on the edge of the Abyss and summon the spirits but will they come? In this performance of the Pathetique, they do: a dark plutonic god arises in development section of the first movement - a Devourer of Colour and Life. It's no wonder that one of Karajan's daughters once thought her father would die onstage during such a performance. Indeed, if you have experienced grief, avoid this performance: it will enviscerate you further. You do not need it. I jest not.

From the Apocalypse of the First Movement to the Requiem in the last, this performance is equal to the score itself. This is not normal music making: it's a one-way ticket to the Underworld, the abode of Shades and irreparable loss.

PS - the booklet on page 2 categorically states that all three works were remastered in 2007.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f70e534) out of 5 stars A brief overview of the three 'twofer' Karajan options available of these 3 symphonies Dec 16 2013
By I. Giles - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is the set made for EMI with analogue recording equipment in the early 1970's. They were recorded, like the 1960's analogue set on DGG, in the Jesus-Christus-Kirche. Both of these sets have been remastered, the DGG one using 24 bit technology as opposed to the Original Bit Imaging favoured on other DGG discs and the EMI one using there own methods.

On the face of it, one would expect the EMI recording to have the edge as sound simply because it is the later recording done in the same venue and also being analogue. That is not the case as the EMI recording becomes uncomfortably edgy on the top range at climatic points (the start of the fourth symphony will suffice) and with a strange tendency to 'glassiness' (check the timpani roll before the final section of the fifth symphony for this)on some textures including the timpani and trumpets when played loudly. Additionally, the EMI recording allows far more of the church echo to intrude and this results in too much resonance on the lower strings in particular with a consequent loss of detail as regards notes played (pitch). In all of these respects they remind me of the LP set I once owned of these recordings which had the same characteristics.

The DGG remastered discs are far clearer and truthful in all of these respects and this applies throughout the two sets despite the disparity in their recording ages and venues. I have spent two weeks doing A/B comparisons of these three sets to attempt a reasonable and secure evaluation of their relative merits. I is worth noting that all three have received conflicting opinions from reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic as regards preferences ranging from highly enthusiastic to dismissive.

The performances themselves are surprisingly different bearing in mind usual Karajan's consistency. The EMI recording offers far more driven and dramatic performances that, in a way, suit the closer recorded balance. However this can also be accumulatively over-bearing however and certainly larger than life. At the same time the recordings lack internal detail especially when compared to the more natural balances of the earliest DGG set from the 1960's. That set, while still rising impressively to climatic moments, offers a far more balletic view at times such as in the third movement of the sixth symphony.

The other option is the analogue set of the 1970's DGG recording of the symphonies. As a set of performances it falls between the other two described above and is a fair example of the Philharmonie venue as regards sound. This is not to everyone's taste although I personally have not found the recording to be a problem to that enjoyment.

My conclusion is that all three sets have much to offer as regards performances. The EMI set is the most driven and the earlier DGG set has a touch more of the dance about it. The !970's DGG recording comes between those two. The EMI recording offers sound that is very 'present' to the point of being strident at climatic points and lacking bass detail. The first DGG recording is arguably the most realistic, greatly aided by the venue, an early favourite with DGG. The later set is very clear with plenty of weight but some find it lacking in bloom.

This is not the only attempt to describe the options for collectors but I offer the above comparisons to try and give further objective reasons for making a choice based on direct comparisons after extended A/B checking.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1eb894) out of 5 stars The best of Karajan in a favourite composer Jan. 29 2015
By Ralph Moore - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I'm not quite sure why Karajan felt such an affinity with these later Tchaikovsky symphonies, to the extent that he made half a dozen studio recordings of them over his long career but he certainly had a way with Russian music, as evinced by his Mussorgsky "Boris Godunov" and "Pictures", the live Shostakovich Tenth Symphony that he took to Moscow and his "Sheherezade". Perhaps Tchaikovsky's orchestration and overt emotionalism allowed him to exploit both the virtuosity of his orchestras and the showman side of his personality; certainly you could not hear better playing than that of the greatest orchestra in the world in 1971 in the most grateful acoustics provided by the recording location of the Jesus-Christus-Kirche; the BPO purr like tigers before applying serious reserves of power in the big moments.

The 2007 remastering has polished what was already superb analogue sound, preferable to any other set for its depth and warmth. There is a glorious sweep to Karajan's way with these works: in the opening movement of the Fourth we waltz blithely into oblivion before being consumed by the manic, screaming power of the last minute. The silky smoothness of the horn solo in the opening of the Fifth is emulated nowhere else but it is the performance of the Sixth which is the real marvel: how anyone could accuse Karajan of shallowness having heard this swirling descent into annihilation is beyond me.

I remain attached to the tauter Mravinsky set but the early 60's sound is hissy and brittle compared with the sumptuousness here; for individual recordings of the Fourth and Fifth, a young Abbado with the VPO and Shipway with the RPO remain first recommendations but Karajan's Sixth is in a class of its own.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f559084) out of 5 stars Karajan and Tchaikovsky's Late Symphonies: A Brief Comparison Jan. 18 2015
By Alexander Arsov - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Tchaikovsky's Fourth, Fifth and Sixth symphonies, so different from one another yet so unmistakably Tchaikovskian, were cornerstones of Karajan's career every bit as important as the symphonies of Beethoven or Brahms. They entered his symphonic repertoire before WWII and stayed there for some half a century or so. He recorded them commercially at least four times. Three of these sets, in fine recent remasters, are conveniently available as twofers.

1964-66, BPO, DG; 2003, OIBP, Karajan The Collection

These are fine performances, now available in better-than-ever-before sound. All the same, they are of mostly historical interest. Both of the next two sets have, in their different ways, vastly superior sound. This one tends to be a little muddy (woodwinds, timpani) or harsh (brass, cymbals), pitfalls of Jesus Christus Kirche as a recording venue which Günter Hermans, Karajan's Tonmeister for DG, didn't always avoid. (Neither did Wolfgang Gülich on EMI, for that matter.) And the sound does matter - unless you still believe the old hokum about Tchaikovsky's amateurish orchestration. Karajan's interpretations didn't change much over the years, but they did become more refined and better nuanced. It was all "smoothing the edges" more - according to the Karajan detractors who claim that he never made another fine recording after those DECCA sessions with the VPO in 1959-60. But that's another story.

The Sixth is notable for the relatively slow, Karajan-wise, climax in the first movement. Also, it is the best recorded of the bunch, although it was actually recorded first (1964). The Fifth is given a very dramatic reading. I don't know how Richard Osborne decided it is "the most gracious and urbane" of all recordings of this symphony made by Karajan. Then again, Mr Osborne is no stranger to writing nonsense in his liner notes. Again according to him, the Fifth is "less troubled (and less original)" than the other two. Ha! You bet!

On the whole, this twofer is a very good place to start. All the same, for the real thing we have to enter the 1970s.

1971, BPO, EMI; 2007, remastered

If you are used to the DG sound, this one will come as a shock. Don't worry. Stay calm. Keep listening. Things will normalise again. Trust me, I know. I've been through it.

I don't know about early editions, but the 2007 remaster boasts incredible sound: spacious, deep, natural. The strings are unbelievable! So many details for which you have to listen carefully on DG here leap to your attention. Unlike some other EMI recordings from the 1970s, the woodwinds are not distant, nor the timpani overblown. My only quibble is that the brass is not clear enough in the grand climaxes. But you can't win them all.

Sound apart, these are leaner, more athletic performances than the ones on DG. There is a sense of abandon that's almost apocalyptic. I use the word in its literal sense. The Berliners play as if the End of the World is coming and there is no tomorrow. All three symphonies are superbly performed, but the Sixth is special. It may be the best Karajan ever did. I do not agree, and never will, with his rather fast take of the climax in the first movement, but here, for once, it sounds almost right. The prominent strings work miracles. The Scherzo sounds totally different, the Waltz is spookier than ever, and the finale will displace your furniture. I guarantee. Just listen to the low strings after the first climax. All in all, stupendous performance in stupendous sound!

1975-76, BPO, DG; 1997, OIBP

This is, on the whole, my favourite set. The sound was already superb on the old box-set edition (4 CDs, 6 symphonies, 1975-79) and, fortunately, the remastering didn't change that. Compared to EMI, the strings here remind one of a chamber orchestra; but the tone is rich and deep. The sound is brighter - some would say brittle - and that is not to everybody's taste, but I have no problems with it. The dynamic range in general and the brass in particular are totally superior to EMI: the climaxes are magnificent yet clear. Just listen to the three cataclysmic chords in the end of the Fourth's first movement, while the main theme wails high in the violins, and the following sound hurricane. Swept you out together with the armchair you were sitting in, didn't it? The Fourth, indeed, is a standout. Karajan surpassed himself. None of his other five studio attempts comes close. The Fifth is rather different than the EMI version, but it stands well to comparison. The Sixth on EMI is unsurpassed, but this one is no slouch either.

1984, VPO, DG; 1994, OIBP, Karajan Gold, not available as set

This is the most disappointing "set". Only the Fourth (Karajan's forte) reminds, from time to time, of his finest Tchaikovsky. The climaxes in the Fifth and the Sixth are strangely tepid. They give the impression of routine drudgery made for the sake of the digital catalogue. This is worthy neither of Karajan nor of the VPO. The sound is, of course, crystal clear and very detailed, but awfully flat and with somewhat limited dynamic range. The balance is rather off: trumpets far too prominent, horns and trombones quite the opposite. The strings are dreadfully thin and weak! Surely the string section of the VPO can do better than that!

The best about these performances is that they were captured on video and released on DVD. They are much better seen than listened to; the camera is often revealing about some less obvious details of the orchestration. And they make for an interesting comparison with the younger and considerably more vigorous Karajan from the "bonus track". If you are a Tchaikovsky or a Karajan aficionado, you probably won't regret the purchase. Then again, you just might. The bad news is that the sound on the SONY DVDs, especially the 2007 editions "re-recorded at the original venues" (what for?!), is even more dreadful than the one on the DG CDs. The dynamic range is flattened to death! And the balance is by no means improved. Judging by the Fourth symphony alone, the problem with the balance was already there in the early SONY DVD (2000), but the limited dynamic range is largely a result of the re-recording procedure. Get the VHS from the 1980s if you can. They are probably superior to both DVD releases.

Bonus track: 1973, BPO, Unitel/DG, Live, DVDX2

Coming from the years between the EMI and the DG sets, these live performances are rather disappointing, at least by Karajan's somewhat exalted standards. Neither the sound nor the performance lives up to the studio recordings. To be sure, they are hugely preferable to the videos with the VPO. But that doesn't say much, does it?

(To be exact, there is one set more, with Philharmonia for EMI (1953-56), as well as isolated recordings of separate symphonies (Fourth for EMI with BPO from 1960, Sixth with BPO for DG from 1939 and with VPO for EMI from 1949), but these are of interest only to fanatical Karajan collectors who want to trace his development.)

Bottom line

Karajan's Tchaikovsky may not be idiomatic enough for the connoisseurs, but for me great music transcends national borders (at least the ones between Russia and the West). I love Mravinsky's grand vision, Rozhdestvensky's devastating passion, Gergiev's scary intensity (especially in the Pathetique) and even Svetlanov's rushed brilliance, yet if I have to choose but one set, I have no doubt which one it will be. As a total experience, for me, Karajan from the 1970s tops them all with a vengeance. Whether one prefers the EMI or the DG sound is a matter of taste. I, for one, would love to combine the EMI strings with the rest from DG. But, like I said, you can't win them all. Therefore, I wouldn't want to be without either set. The other two sets are of limited historical (1960s) or visual (1980s) interest.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f50a7ec) out of 5 stars Tchaikovsky's Symphonies 4, 5, and 6 Oct. 26 2012
By Anne Gavigan - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The recording of Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies is a faithful reproduction of Herbert von karajan's performance with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The sound is excellent, with a wide dynamic range. The set of two CDs includes program notes by David Nice and a track for every movement of each symphony. I have read other favorable reviews online, and I would like to add that this is a collector's item at a reasonable price.