on 21 January 2013
What we get here are four powerful readings that are assured, controlled deep and meaningful. Symphonies 1-4 are all taken from the Digital Era [i.e. 1980's] and accommodated to fit this 2CD-set.
Brahms Symphony No. 1 [rec 1987]
- this particular version beats all the previous recordings that Karajan committed to record - and beats every other possible recording of this Symphony by any other conductor. The only real competitor for the Symphony No. 1 is Klaus Tennstedt, a terrible shame he didn't or was unable to complete a Brahms's set.
Brahms Symphony No. 2 [rec 1986]
- a sure footed well played and a well-engineered recording of this symphony.
Brahms Symphony No. 3 [rec 1988]
- a well-executed performance and descent recording of a symphony that appears to elude that 100% definitive recording anywhere. In the absence of the definitive recording - this 1989 recording is more than recommendable.
Brahms Symphony No. 4 [rec 1988]
- a well played, performed and very good recording of this symphony. I find the Karajan performance of this symphony spot on simply quite stunning.
In conclusion - If you're looking for a Brahms - Symphonies Nos. 1-4 you can't go wrong with this set. The Brahms - Symphony No. 1 here is the definitive recording and none so far have been able to exceed its excellence. All 4 symphonies here are a unmissable bargain and opportunity! This could only be bettered with offer of these recordings as studio high resolution FLAC download files.
In the years since Herbert von Karajan, 1908-89, died much has changed in classical music. At the height of his musical and political power his control over his record companies, his orchestras and the marketing of his music was absolute.
This 2 CD set of the four Brahms’ symphonies was recorded in 1977-78 [No. 4], 1986 [No. 2], 1987 [No. 1] and 1988 [No. 3], and was issued as part of the set Karajan - The Collection. As befits the conductor, his name is printed on each CD at least five times are large as the composer. The booklet contains five pictures of the Karajan, plus his signature and reproductions of the eleven 2 CD boxed sets in The Collection that show the conductor on land, sea and air [flying not levitating]. The leaflet text, ‘Karajan Conducts Brahms’, with the conductor’s name in typically large print, is by Richard Osborne.
The First and Third Symphonies are on CD1, tt 77.54, with the Second and Fourth on CD 2, tt 80.28; all but the latter work are digital recordings. The performances, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, are typical of Karajan, beautiful but overly smooth, excessively lush and lacking in emotion. It is as if Karajan has used a homogeniser to blend textural and rhythmic infelicities. Osborne mentions that Karajan most commonly performed Brahms’ First Symphony with the Third being played least.
The First Symphony is less warm than the earlier 1964 performance when the conductor still focused more on his music than his empire building. The Second Symphony shows Karajan in relaxed mood showing sensitivity and vibrancy. The Third Symphony is the least successful, lacking flexibility and overarching drive. The final symphony is smooth and streamlined, but in contrast to later performances, not excessively so. In all the performances, Karajan and ‘his’ orchestra are at one, having rehearsed and played the works very many times.
This is a good example of late 20th century Romantic Brahms and would be a good entry point for anyone interested in this composer. However, Klemperer, Sanderling and Kempe each draw so much more from the music. For me the Kempe cycle still stands out for his insights and his determination not to interpose himself between composer and the listener.
on 24 June 2005
What we get here are four powerfull readings that are assured, controlled deep and meaningfull. Syphonies 1-3 are taken from the Digtial Era [i.e. 1980's] and the 4th Symphony dates from 1978. Placing the 4th Symphony taken from the 1970's placed alongside the Digital recordings does not make sense - my guess is that the Digital 4th Symphony version could not be accomated to fit this 2CD-set.
Brahms Symphony No. 1 [rec 1987]
- this particular version beats all the previous recordings that Karajan commited to record - and beats every other possible recording of this Symphony by any other conductor. The only competitor for the No. 1 spot is Klaus Tennstedt.
Brahms Symphony No. 2 [rec 1987]
- a sure footed well played and a well engineered recording of this symphony.
Brahms Symphony No. 3 [rec 1989]
- a well executed performance and descent recording of a symphony that appears to elude that 100% definitve recording anywhere. In the abscence of the definitive recording - this 1989 recording is more than recomendable.
Brahms Symphony No. 4 [rec 1978]
A passionate and fire driven performance of Symphony No. 4 that has few faults and all that one could wish to hear in this work.
In conclusion - If your looking for a Brahms - Syms 1-4 you can't go wrong with this set. The Brahms - Sym No. 1 here is the definitive recording and none so far have been able to exceed its excellence. An unmissable opportunity!