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Customer Review

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Karajan's golden years..., 31 July 2013
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This review is from: Karajan - 70s (DG box set) (Audio CD)
This collection contains the complete recordings that Karajan did for DG (except operas) during the 70ies. Karajan was then at the peak of his career, and many of his most wellknown and famous recordings were made during this era.

First of all, there are the big symphony cycles - Schumann, Tschaikowsky, Bruckner, and Mendelssohn. These four are highly recommended, and are still considered to be among the best cycles. Then there is Beethoven and Brahms. Both these cycles may be overshadowed by recordings that Karajan made in the 60ies, and the competition is much stronger from other conductors when it comes to Beethoven and Brahms.

There are not many concerts in the set, but Ann-Sophie Mutters first recordings with Karajan are here, Mozart 3 and 5, and Beethoven. Very good indeed.

Karajan is not always thought of as a strong mahlerian, but the 9th symphony had good review in its time, and in this set there is also 4, 5 and 6. They are not bad at all. And then there are the Kindertotenlieder and Rückert-Lieder sung by Christa Ludwig - excellent recordings!

We are also given a number of baroque recordings that Karajan made with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker during the summer months. Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli and others. Although these recordings were made in another style that we are used to today, it can't be denied that they are high quality interpretations on their own right.

What is more difficult to get used to are Karajan's interpretations of choral works. There are several included here - Verdi's Requiem, Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Mozart's Coronation mass, to mention just a few. There are definitely fresher recordings (with better choral singing) to choose from.

There are a few surprises as well: Carl Orff's cantata De Temporum Fine Comoedia is one of them. Karajan made the only existing recording with forces from Cologne. This one a bit tougher than his "Carmina". And then there is one CD with European National Anthems, and two CDs with Prussian and Austrian Marches. I think that DG could had skipped these three CDs!

The presentation is very nice. The sleeves are with the original pictures and text, which is welcome and appeal to nostalgians. There is a thick book containing interesting essays and details about the recordings. You are not told anything about the masterings, however. DG wasn't known for the best masterings in the early days of the CD. The sound could be congested and cluttered, especially in heavyloaded orchestral music. However, DG did in fact do some new remasterings for the series "Karajan Gold". Thirty releases from the early digital era were remastered for this series using DG's special Original-Image Bit-Processing technology (OIBP). They were issued between 1993-1995. It has been a matter of debate whether these releases were an improvement over the original ones. Having bought one or two of them, at that time, I found the OIBP releases better.

To conclude then - this set is not cheap, but it contains a lot, including some excellent recordings. Questions remain regarding remasterings and sound quality.

---------------------

August 24, 2013. Additional comments on the sound and the remasterings. It is clear from the record labels that ALL discs in this box have gone through DG's OIBP remastering. Having now had some time to make comparisons, I picked a previous release of Schumann's 3rd symphony Schumann:DG 429 672-2 and compared this with the present release. The timings are not the same, which supports that some change has taken place. Unfortunately, I must say that there is little improvement (if any) of sound quality in the new release. The string sound is egdy and harsh in both releases. Sadly, I have sold my LP, so I havn't been able to make comparisons with the LP from the 70s. I believe though that some explanation may lie in the fact that the original recordings of DG were thought inferior to Decca and other companies in those years (and even later). No remastering in the world can make up the mistakes that took place during the recoding session.

November 17, 2013. After having listened to more of these recordings, I must confirm that the sound is a disappointment. I doubt that "Original-Image Bit-Processing" means more than that the original remastering was refurbished in some way or another, not that a new remastering was made. It is may also be that the original recordings were of such poor quality that it was not possible to accomplish more. Because of the sound, I have lowered my rating from five stars to four.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Aug 2013 16:03:41 BDT
thanks for the helpful post. I am assuming that the remastering is at least as good as the korean 70s box that came out a little while ago. The listing for that box on Amazon has a helpful review of the remastering.

Cheers
Mike

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2013 21:09:03 BDT
Karafan says:
Can anyone with this set now clarify the position on the remasterings please? For instance the Bruckner symphonies have never had a remastering - do they finally get one in this set? Thanks.

Posted on 29 Aug 2013 19:10:05 BDT
CVA says:
Peter, per your 8/24 added comment. Are you saying that it indicates OIBP remastering on the CD labels themselves?? If so, yes that is encouraging, because the Korean box did not have all the music in OIBP, and the labels on the CDs of the Korean version said nothing about OIBP. Would appreciation your confirmation. Thanks.

Posted on 2 Sep 2013 07:48:18 BDT
Octave says:
Thanks for this helpful review, Peter, and for the note on remasterings. I might pass along a comment by Amazon customer-reviewer Quinton Fox, appended as a comment to Bernard O'Hanlon's review of the last reissue of Karajan's Bruckner box (at Amazon US):
<<<<I compared the first 15 minutes of B9 to the version in this box and found a big improvement in sound. There is more detail, better dynamics and much better string and brass timbre. The increased clarity removes any trace of schmaltz and moves the "lingo" even deeper into Wagner territory.>>>>

Just to offer another little short sample testimonial, as there has been much (deserved) griping about the old masterings of those Bruckners. This, at least, is some good news! I really feel the need to offer (premature?) gratitude to DG/Universal for bothering to upgrade some/many of these discs, esp. in the twilight (?) and despair of physical media, such as it is.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Nov 2013 11:31:06 GMT
Peter says:
Please see an additional comment in my review.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Nov 2013 11:31:15 GMT
Peter says:
Please see an additional comment in my review.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Nov 2013 11:31:27 GMT
Peter says:
Please see an additional comment in my review.

Posted on 19 Jan 2014 02:33:09 GMT
Fuenterino says:
Since I was at university at the time and writing record reviews for the university newspaper "Varsity" when I wrote a review praising Karajan's "Missa Solemnis," I was invited to lunch by the Decca "top brass" followed by an afternoon of very intensive "comparative listening" on the very finest equipment money could buy. Actually, I needed no convincing ! Nobody did ! It was well known that Decca produced by far and away the best sound - and the worst records ! Only EMI was worse but with not so good sound.

This is what let DG in to the market. DG recordings may not have been as good as Decca and never have been but the "German Quality" if the product was just streets ahead. A DG record was a joy to behold ! Immaculate in every respect, even if the sound wasn't up to much ! I was in the throes of becoming a "Karajan Addict" at the time and heartily wished that Karajan had recorded for Decca and not Deutsche Grammofon !!

Which he did, of course, but not very much and mostly opera (Culshaw's unmatched "Carmen" and "Tosca.") Gustav Holst's daughter, Imogen, reckoned that the Karajan/Culshaw recording of her father's "The Planets" was the best ever ! And we get a glimpse of what might have been with the Decca recording of "La Bohème," the only Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic recording on Decca. The sound is totally different from DG, much more gutsy and wide-ranging. DG is much more "silky-smooth," especially in strings and woodwind, which Karajan probably liked ! However, once DG moved from the Jesus Christus Kirche to the Philharmonie, there is hardly a single decent recording - sound-wise- of Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. In a way, it is a minor tragedy that most recordings of the most important conductor in history are not very good, sonically! Once DG moved to the Philharmonie, Karajan's "knob-twiddling" didn't help ! There are a couple of Sibelius recordings - 4th and 5th Symphonies - which have excellent sound on DG but I can't think of many others. DG won the game because of excellent quality. If Decca could have come anywhere near to DG production quality, they would have swept the board ! Decca: fantastic sound but very poor quality records and DG with fantastic quality and mediocre sound ! CD has been the great leveller but far too late.

Posted on 19 Jan 2014 02:36:29 GMT
Fuenterino says:
Since I was at university at the time and writing record reviews for the university newspaper "Varsity" when I wrote a review praising Karajan's "Missa Solemnis," I was invited to lunch by the Decca "top brass" followed by an afternoon of very intensive "comparative listening" on the very finest equipment money could buy. Actually, I needed no convincing ! Nobody did ! It was well known that Decca produced by far and away the best sound - and the worst records ! Only EMI was worse but with not so good sound.

This is what let DG in to the market. DG recordings may not have been as good as Decca and never have been but the "German Quality" if the product was just streets ahead. A DG record was a joy to behold ! Immaculate in every respect, even if the sound wasn't up to much ! I was in the throes of becoming a "Karajan Addict" at the time and heartily wished that Karajan had recorded for Decca and not Deutsche Grammofon !!

Which he did, of course, but not very much and mostly opera (Culshaw's unmatched "Carmen" and "Tosca.") Gustav Holst's daughter, Imogen, reckoned that the Karajan/Culshaw recording of her father's "The Planets" was the best ever ! And we get a glimpse of what might have been with the Decca recording of "La Bohème," the only Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic recording on Decca. The sound is totally different from DG, much more gutsy and wide-ranging. DG is much more "silky-smooth," especially in strings and woodwind, which Karajan probably liked ! However, once DG moved from the Jesus Christus Kirche to the Philharmonie, there is hardly a single decent recording - sound-wise- of Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. In a way, it is a minor tragedy that most recordings of the most important conductor in history are not very good, sonically! Once DG moved to the Philharmonie, Karajan's "knob-twiddling" didn't help ! There are a couple of Sibelius recordings - 4th and 5th Symphonies - which have excellent sound on DG but I can't think of many others. DG won the game because of excellent quality. If Decca could have come anywhere near to DG production quality, they would have swept the board ! Decca: fantastic sound but very poor quality records and DG with fantastic quality and mediocre sound ! CD has been the great leveller but far too late.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Jan 2014 16:52:06 GMT
Peter says:
Thank you for your nice and personal comment. I agree that Karajan was one of the great conductors of the 20th century, but I do not hold him higher than, say, Solti, Klemperer, Bernstein or even Celibidache. Some of Karajan's reputation is inflated, and is the result of a very successful marketing, both from DG ("Das Wunder...") and from his own side. I never heard Karajan live, but many of his recordings are too "studied", and lack the sense of occasion.
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