Karajan and Bach? Well, opinions divide drastically here. The new breed of 'purists' pour scorn on anything that doesn't use period instruments, no vibrato, and limited forces. But, in my opinion, this approach often leads to dull and uninteresting performances that rarely speak to (or from) the heart. Not so in this Karajan recording: he uses grand forces, plenty of swelling crescendos and, thankfully, lots of lovely effective string vibrato. Yes, it's the 'old school' - a school that, more often than not, got it right, despite the purist's views.
What I love most about this performance is the pacing - from the very opening we know we are embarking on a huge musical journey, very apt for a work that has often been hailed as one of the creative monuments of Western civilisation. Karajan is uninhibited - if he wants loud, he gets it, and he always contrasts the peaks with wonderfully intimate and heart-rending soft passages. His focus is consuming, his intent obvious, and his vision is clear: none of the wishy-washy, introvert playing as we so often hear these days - he puts the emotion heart-on-sleeve and Bach can really take this approach. It works!
An integral and, indeed, additional delight, is the glorious voice of Schwarzkopk - again, that wonderful old style of directly converying the music from the heart.
A truly wonderful testament to a time gone by - and one that will endure.