Every Karajan / BPO concert in 1988 was (unofficially, of course) billed as possibly his last in whatever the venue concerned and so it was with two indispensable concerts on tour in Tokyo and London, where the Brahms Symphony No. 1 topped the bill. The first here was in May and has the edge over its London counterpart from as late as October by virtue of marginally superior digital sound without the slight fuzz which marginally afflicts the analogue recording made by the BBC. The only other salient factor is the coupling: either a magnificently dark, brooding, full-fat performance, which is robust, virile and elegant by turns, of K.543 or Karajan in a favourite showpiece, Schoenberg's "Verklärte Nacht", given an intensity which other orchestras could only aim for.
In all honesty I did not expect and do not hear much interpretative difference between the two Brahms performances and timings are virtually identical, as one might expect from HvK, who rarely deviated from his plan once he had arrived at a coherent artistic conception; both are simply stupendous, building to a climax which inspires the audience to roar its approval.
All three pieces of music concerned are amongst my personal favourites and I neither know of, nor can imagine better renditions unless they are alternative recordings by Karajan himself; they remain testaments to his enduring genius whatever you think of him and make of his influence over recording and performance in 20C music.