Herbert von Karajan made recordings of the Brahm's Symphonies many times through his long career and this Deutsche Grammophon 2-CD set contains what, by common consensus, is regarded as the most successful set. I'm not so sure about that, as I often find with this particular conductor that the earlier the recording, the better. This late analogue set does sound superb in it's CD incarnation, but I suspect that the original LPs sounded even better.
What I can be clear about is that this 1970s set is more impressive than the late digital set Karajan made Brahms: The 4 Symphonies
, although the version of the fourth symphony in that particular set is the same as the one here as, for some reason (probably the congested sound quality), the DDD Brahms 4 was not included in the later compilation Brahms;Symphony No.4
In 1943, Karajan recorded Brahms 1 with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, a magnificent, tension-filled, recording in subfusc sound Symphony No. 1/Leonore Overture No. 3/Salome (Von Karajan)
. Then, in 1949, at the instigation of EMI's Walter Legge, Karajan recorded Brahms 2 with the Vienna Philharmoniker on 78s, a performance I really rate highly Brahms: Symphony No. 2 / Strauss: Metamorphosen / Mozart: Masonic Funeral Music
After that, Karajan recorded Symphonies 1, 2, and 4 for HMV with the Philharmonia Orchestra, a crack ensemble at the time, in quite mellow performances now available in EMI's massive Karajan box set Karajan: The Complete EMI Recordings Vol. 1
. These records are very much worth hearing despite the slightly restricted mono sound. Symphony 3 was left to Karajan's Decca contract Dvorak: Symphony No.8 / Brahms: Symphony No.3
, then he was off to Deutsche Grammophon for his early 1960s recordings Brahms: Symphony 2, 3 Brahms: Symphony No.1
, perhaps the best of the lot in good early stereo.
Whichever set of Brahms symphonies from Herbert von Karajan you choose, and this set would be an excellent choice, you can be assured that he was, undoubtedly, a great Brahmsian conductor.