- Audio CD (Aug. 26 2014)
- Number of Discs: 7
- Format: Box set
- Label: FAB Distribution
- ASIN: B00JX4IDEO
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #138,538 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Non-German Romantic Sep 1970 - Jan 1981 Box set
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The Karajan Official Remastered Edition comprises 13 box sets containing official remasterings of the finest recordings the Austrian conductor made for EMI between 1946 and 1984, which are now a jewel of the Warner Classics catalog. This 7-CD box presents orchestral works by composers including Debussy, Ravel, Bizet, Berlioz, Franck, Puccini, Dvorak, Smetana and Tchaikovsky played by the Berlin Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris.brbrFor many, Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) - hailed early in his career as 'Das Wunder Karajan' (The Karajan Miracle) and known in the early 1960s as 'the music director of Europe' - remains the ultimate embodiment of the maestro. The release of the Karajan Official Remastered Edition over the first half of 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the conductor's death in July 1989 at the age of 81.brbrHe was closely associated with EMI for the majority of his recording career (specifically from 1946 to 1960 and then again from 1969 to 1984). EMI's legendary producer Walter Legge sought him out in Vienna just after World War II and the long relationship that ensued embraced recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Philharmonia (the orchestra founded by Legge), the Berlin Philharmonic (of which Karajan became 'conductor for life' in 1955), La Scala, Milan, and the Orchestre de Paris.brbrCD ListingbrCD 1: Debussy-La Mer; Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; Ravel-Bolero; Alborada del Gracioso; La ValsebrCD 2: Ravel-Rapsodie Espagnole; Le Tombeau de Couperin; Bizet-L'Arlésienne, Suite No. 2; Chabrier-Espaa-Rapsodie; Gounod-Faust: Ballet MusicbrCD 3: Berlioz-La Damnation de Faust; Franck-Symphony in D Minor; Puccini-Intermezzi from Suor Angelica and Manon LescautbrCD 4: Dvorak-Symphonies Nos. 8 & 9brCD 5: Smetana-Ma Vlást; Dvorak-Slavonic Dance No. 8 in G Minor; Bartok-Concerto for OrchestrabrCD 6: Tchaikovsky-Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5brCD 7: Tchaikovsky-Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6
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The EMI re-issue of their recordings with Karajan are a welcome addition to the library for Karajan and classical fans alike. While the set as a whole is not consistently great, and it does seem that the 70's recordings with EMI were the ones in which Karajan had the most amount of input, and thus the most amount of oddities and variability in recording quality because of the, at times, strange balances and effects, there is no doubt that there are some real gems in the collection and some mighty and intense performances.
There is a lot to enjoy in this particular set, although I must admit it is a rather odd compilation of selections for one volume
The Debussy and Ravel are the best of the set, this particular performance of La Mer especially offering some interesting insights and effects, in addition to an immediacy and sense of visceral presence that his other performances of La Mer lack. Of the three performances under Karajan that I've heard of La Mer, this one easily has the most overwhelming impact in the finales, and a genuine sense of atmosphere, although the later digital DG performance may appeal to most listeners more because of its greater delicacy and slightly more distanced presentation. For my money, this is some of Karajan's best Debussy.
The Ravel pieces are also very enjoyable, especially La Valse, rather akin to Bernstein's famous version with the same Paris orchestra. Still, there is a seductiveness and panache that Karajan brings that is unique and thrilling. That being said, despite admirable performances of the Rhapsodie Espanole and Bolero, he bettered them in the early 80's, which can be enjoyed on the Karajan Gold edition coupled with one of the best Pictures at an Exhibition ever recorded.
The other fillers are enjoyable as well, especially the intermezzos, which have a richer sound and better recording quality than the earlier DG incarnations he made in the 60's.
The Tchaikovsky symphonies, in my opinion, were bettered in the mid-70's, the DG set of 4-6 being my go-to set for those symphonies. While there is much to enjoy in these earlier presentations, they don't match the presence and drive of the later performances in either 4 or 6, Karajan's 70's account being one of the best one could hear on disc. This 6th offers a similar performance, but not quite as emotional or well-executed, and both the finale of symphony 4 and the March of symphony 6 have a good deal of distortion and overloads when the bass drum comes in strong. The stand out here, however, is the 5th, which has an immediacy and power that actually may slightly better the 70's performance, and is really enjoyable, however the overall sound quality is better in the 70's version.
The Dvorak recordings are enjoyable as well, and indeed these EMI performances were the first ones I ever heard of either of these works. They are a bit over-driven, but the power, intensity and drive grows on one and while Karajan easily bettered these performances in Vienna in the 1980's, and these recordings are not as detailed as the later ones, there is still much to enjoy, the slow movements of both symphonies being highlights of the entire set, and there is an overall warmth and resonance to these recordings that are enjoyable, with a good deal of atmosphere in the slow movements especially.
All told, this is a no brainer for Karajan fans, while for the casual listener I would direct one to Karajan's 1970's Tchaikovsky recordings with DG, as well as his digital recordings of Ravel and Debussy also on DG, however these recordings certainly offer many rewards and are not to be dismissed.
Dvorak 8&9: too broad, not my favourite recordings by Karajan (9: BPO 1964, WPO 1985; 8: DECCA/ WPO 1961(!);WPO 1987);
Tchaikovsky 4-6: too broad and lingering, prefer the 60s / 70s / 80s DG recordings (unfortunately I have them all);
4th still has the destortion in the climaxes
Debussy/ Ravel (Berlin): prefer 60s / 80s DG recordings sound-wise (more atmospheric), interpreation wise not a big difference
Re-mastering: beautifully done, but improves the sound only slightly in comparison the previous EMI releases; so no real need to throw out the old editions unless a) you don't own the recordings or b) want to replace the old EMI Studio CDs (White design now rather yellowish) .