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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-Have Recording of Pathetique!, 9 Dec 2007
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Scriabinmahler (UK) - See all my reviews
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Of all official Karajan recordings of Symphony Pathetique, if you are Karajan fan or not, the outstanding ones are, 1954 recording with NHK (Japan Broardcast Corporation) Symphony (DG Japan), 1971 BPO(EMI), 1974 BPO(DG), and this 1964 DG recording again with BPO. Most critics agree the 74 version is his best, but truth is that every one of them has something to marvel at.

NHK version is the wildest interpretation by Karajan as if trying to experiment with the limit of emotional intensity, mono recording with enormous dynamic range. '71 EMI recording has huge emphasis on bass on the outer movements with explosive climaxes, recorded in spacious acoustics of Jesus-Christus Kirche. '74 DG version has the most powerful driving force in the first movement.

The '64 recording in this set is my favourite, as interpretation-wise this is the most finely balanced and natural without losing emotional intensity. The openig bass is the darkest and most sinister on record since the legendary Cairo Live by Furtwangler. The second theme is introduced with utmost tenderness and sung beautifully. The explosion is no less overwhelming than the '74 version. What I like most in this movement is the way lyrical theme returnes with slightly measured tempo in larger scale.

Second movement is the best rendition by Karajan. He does not slow down the second melancholic theme like he does in other recordings, which I can not stand! In the third movement Karajan masterfully builds up the excitement up to the very last moment. The last movement is as devastating and relentless as can be. 60s stereo recording is warm and natural. Coupled with equally outstanding 4th & 5th, this is the Must for anyone who loves Tchaikovsky's symphonies played with dignity and deepest feelings.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally , Karajan's Best 4-5-6 (the 60s recordings), 10 July 2003
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R. Lane (Tracy, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Since CDs first appeared over 20 years ago I've eagerly hoped to have the 1960s recordings of the Tchaikovsky Symphonies 4-6 from DG with Karajan condusting the BPO in its prime. I have always preferred them over the last analog recordings he made for DG in the late 1970s (available as a 2fer, #4530882). The 1970s recordings were very loud with practically no accoustic. To many microphones, no ambience, always "in your face". These recordings, by contrast, have a fabulous sound, and Karajan's vision is a little more humane. Strongly recommended. The fifth is especially a treasure. Karajan is ever so aware of the work's dynamic nuances, and the recording capture it marvelously. Order it now! You be ever so pleased.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Herbie goes another round with Pyotr, 11 Oct 2014
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I do not know if the photograph of Karajan looking longingly at the Moscow skyline dates from early December 1941 or from the Sixties (when he visited the city thrice) but one thing is certain: these are fine performances even if not one of them is a primary recommendation. In fact, over time they have been eclipsed (in the majority's view) by the 1976 remakes.

With all the benevolence in the world, neither the Fourth nor the Fifth symphonies is the Divine Comedy set to music. Even so, they are works of substance. There's a lot to be said for the former as an exposition of kinetics. In Karajan's hands, its last movement is punchy and vivacious. The svelte tones of the Berlin Philharmonic underwrite the September 1965 recording of the Fifth: the slow movement is an invitation to revel in the lushness of horns. Both of them are fine accounts. Even so, neither interpretation is going to change your life. That leaves the Sixth Symphony . . . . . .

There is a saying that if one looks into the abyss, the latter returns the stare. For all the magnificence of the orchestral playing in this February 1964 Pathetique, there's a classical restraint to this performance as if Karajan did not want to take up this challenge. One never senses that he is eyeballing anything other than the score and lights from the control room. The deeper challenge - to fathom out the abyss - slips by, masked somewhat by the splendour of the orchestra.

In the minority though I be, the 1971 EMI Pathetique is one of Karajan's greatest recordings (Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6. Its grandeur stems from the fact that it is so damned wild and desperate as if the conductor and the orchestra have released something demonic that cannot be contained or retracted even if they put down their instruments. It's scary. In contrast, this `64 version is mere shadow-boxing.

One should also comment on the sound. It has been suggested elsewhere that this 2008 remastering is a work-in-progress. I disagree. I compared this issue of the Sixth with the old remastering from 1988 (coupled with the near-forgotten October 1966 performance of Romeo and Juliet): the improvement is astounding. Just listen to the timbre of the woodwind at the close of the first movement of the Sixth: it's chalk and cheese. The Fourth is shrill on occasions.

In short, these performances are commendable enough. Even so, they're not Karajan's best interpretations in this domain.

The Abyss says so too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One possible way to decide which Karajan recording to choose of these works, 16 Dec 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is the set made with analogue recording equipment in the mid 1960's. They were recorded, like the 1970's analogue set on EMI, in the Jesus-Christus-Kirche. Both of these sets have been remastered, this one using 24 bit technology as opposed to the Original Bit Imaging favoured on other DGG discs.

On the face of it, one would expect the EMI recording to have the edge as sound simply because it is the later recording done in the same venue and also being analogue. That is not the case as the EMI recording becomes uncomfortably edgy on the top range at climatic points (the start of the fourth symphony will suffice) and with a strange tendency to 'glassiness' (check the timpani roll before the final section of the fifth symphony for this)on some textures including the timpani and trumpets when played loudly. Additionally, the EMI recording allows far more of the church echo to intrude and this results in too much resonance on the lower strings in particular with a consequent loss of detail as regards notes played (pitch). In all of these respects they remind me of the LP set I once owned of these recordings which had the same characteristics.

The DGG remastered discs are far clearer and truthful in all of these respects and this applies throughout the two sets. I have spent two weeks doing A/B comparisons to prepare for this possible contentious comparison as I wanted to be absolutely sure. I have no previous knowledge of this set.

The performances themselves are surprisingly different bearing in mind usual Karajan's consistency. The EMI recording offers far more driven and dramatic performances that, in a way, suit the closer recorded balance. However this can also be over-bearing and certainly larger than life while at the same time lacking in internal detail especially when compared to the more natural balances of the earlier DGG set. That set, while still rising impressively to climatic moments, offers a far more balletic view at times such as in the third movement of the sixth symphony.

One other disc has crossed my path and that is the analogue 1970's DGG recording of the fifth symphony that I also own. As a performance it falls between the other two described above and is a satisfactory example of the Philharmonie venue as regards sound. This is not to everyone's taste and I have no wish to take sides other than to say that I enjoy the performance and have not found the recording to be a problem to that enjoyment. I have not heard symphonies 4 and 6 from that set and therefore cannot comment further.

I have now finally deleted the EMI set from my collection for the sonic reasons as described above and have kept the 1960's DGG set plus the single fifth also mentioned above. There are other conductors that I would recommend but that is a different story .........

This is not the only answer but I offer the above comparisons to try and give some objective reasons for making a choice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A better place, 7 Sep 2012
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Frustrated by the sound I've sold or given away my CDs of Karajan's 1970s recordings of Tchaikovsky symphonies: whatever the virtues of the Berlin Philharmonie as a concert venue it offers no help to the recording industry, (significantly Decca seems to have entirely avoided working there.)

These recordings are another matter however: the 1960s found the Berlin Philharmonic recording mostly in the Jesus Christus Kirche - certainly not in the Philharmonie. ( It was with the adoption of the Philharmonie as recording venue around 1973/4 that the sonic superiority of Karajan's BPO recordings disappeared.)
The life and 'air' characteristic of even his first stereo post war BPO recording - the 1959 Heldenleben - are amply present in these Tchaikovsky symphonies where the building adds a natural character and believable perspective to the sound. Maybe the orchestra was even finer for the later cycle but there probably wasn't a better band on the planet in the 1960s. I heard Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic playing Tchaikovsky in Edinburgh about the time these recordings were made and, even in the Usher Hall, was bowled over by the intensity. In the manner of the time there are no exposition repeats but the emotion and sweep of the performances still carry all before them. Szell's legendary 4th symphony done with the LSO in 1962 in the wake of a live performance is the only recording I know that measures up to these.
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12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Tchaikovsky at his best, 16 Oct 2006
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ken ballard (Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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Fantastic recording, sublime music all 3 symphonies great orchestra

superb conductor it doesnt get better than this. In a word FANTASTICABULOUS
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9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 5 Mar 2006
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A fantastic CD. The 4th symphony is the best that you will hear.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic sounds 1, 11 Jan 2013
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I went to a concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester to hear the 3rd symphony of Tchaikovsky. Realised that in spite of many years of classical experience, I did not know it. So the next day I bought this CD and another with symphonies 1-3 as well. Can't speak re the classical nuances, just know I love listening to them.
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This product

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos.4, 5 & 6 (2 CDs)
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos.4, 5 & 6 (2 CDs) by Berliner Philharmoniker and Herbert von Karajan
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