I have reviewed Karajan's 1962 recording of Mozart's Requiem and found that other listeners have been rather uncomplimentary about it. Listening to this generally well thought of performance from 1976 side by side with the 1962 one has been fascinating.
I find it hard to believe that the performances were directed by the same person. In 1962, the performance was lyrical, smooth and rather leaden at times. In 1976, it was much more hard driven and exciting. However, I do occasionally feel that some of the sheer beauty and charm of the music has been lost in taking such a direct approach.
In 1962, the choir sounded as if it had been recorded too distantly with a resultant loss of bite and a bit too much wooliness of sound. The 1976 choir (it was the Vienna Singverein on both recordings) has been recorded with far more presence. They are so much more 'there' in this recording, almost too much if anything.
In my recording of the 1962 recording, I was quite impressed with the soloists with the possible exception of Wilma Lipp, the soprano. In the 1976 recording, Anna Tomowa Sintow sings radiantly, a wonderfully creamy singer very much in the vein of Gundula Janowitz. Agnes Baltsa (another Karajan favourite) is equally wonderful in the alto solos. The other two soloists, Werner Krenn and Jose van Dam sing well but for me, the soloists from 1962 were far better. However, I would add that the 4 soloists together make a marvellous team.
It has been a fascinating comparison. Both performances have much to offer but in the final analysis neither is the performance one dreams about hearing.