This set of 5 CDs, which are sometimes confusingly referred to as the Karajan `1963 version' of Beethoven symphonies, are in fact recordings of performances between December 1961 and November 1962. This is according to the sleeve notes, which also state the publishing date of 1963 so I assume this is the cause of the mis-quotes.
The collection has also received much criticism for its quality of recording, but I couldn't hear any evidence of this on my set. Maybe recording techniques have improved since the 1960's but I would find these CD releases difficult to fault, and while the much-hyped vinyl pressings of these performances may have great nostalgic value and appeal more to the audiophile, I would find them rather difficult to play while driving to work!
It is worth remembering too that Karajan was a key figure in the development of the CD format, where he attended the first press conference announcing this new medium, although the decision to extend the maximum playing time of CDs from 60 minutes to 75 minutes in order to accommodate Karajan's rendition of Beethoven's Ninth may be a little fanciful.
This is a lovely packaged set of CDs, neatly presented in a slim-line box with 52 page booklet (21 pages in English), and including the words to Schiller's `Ode to Joy' in case you want to sing-a-long.
My favourite of the set is the powerful, yet immaculately controlled and refined, Ninth symphony.
The conductor is dead, long live the recordings...