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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 (Audio CD)
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.