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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2007
Excellent DVD. Karajan gives his all here and I disagree with the poster who thought the performances old fashioned. These are timeless interpretations and Karajan's face after the closing bars of LvB's 5th fascinates me. As the sound dies away his face seems almost to `crumble' as the tension of the performance lifts. A world away from his eyes-closed, somewhat aloof, latter day performances.

Not sure why the producers didn't also include the tremendous Dvorak 9 (made at exactly the same time and with seried ranks of double bass players who look barely into their teens) or the Mozart Violin Concerto No 5 (with the VSO and Menuhin, under Karajan) which accompanied these films in their earlier incarnation on a pair of VHS cassettes (as "Karajan: Early Images, Volumes 1 & 2").

Let's hope that these other valuable musical documents also make their way to silver disc.

Hugely enjoyable DVD.
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HALL OF FAMEon 23 August 2006
... this DVD might be for you. I don't know if there are other Karajan rehearsal DVDs out there, but this one has two full performances of symphonies -- the Schumann 4th and the Beethoven 5th -- each preceded by footage of Karajan rehearsing the orchestra for those performances.

The documentary of his rehearsal before the Schumann is of most interest because it is an hour long and shows in exhaustive detail how Karajan conveyed to his orchestra, by words and demonstrations, exactly what he wanted. In that symphony the orchestra is the Vienna Symphony (not the Philharmonic) and frankly in the rehearsal they sound a bit scrappy, but somehow during the performance of the symphony that follows they sound like one of the great orchestras. The rehearsal is conducted in German, of course, but there are excellent, idiomatic subtitles in English; there is also the option of French subtitles. The filming in this and the second documentary and performance are by the great French film director, Henri-Georges Clouzot (sometimes known as H.G. Clouzot) who directed such film noir masterpieces as 'Diabolique' and 'Wages of Fear.' The filming uses his noirish low key lighting with its chiaroscuro effect. Clouzot started out as a prodigy pianist and his feel for the music is clearly both instinctive and informed. In both the rehearsal film and the performance much of the focus is on Karajan. But there is plenty of footage showing the musicians doing their jobs.

The much shorter documentary associated with the Beethoven Fifth consists of a brief interview with Karajan followed by a rehearsal by a student conductor (who is not named) who is then instructed by Karajan, a kind of conducting master-class. Much the same sort of thing happens here: one can hear the results of Karajan's instructions in succeeding run-throughs of various sections of the second movement, the andante con moto. The rehearsal and performance are by the Berlin Philharmonic. The orchestra is large -- quadruple winds, for instance -- and the performance is a lush, dramatic and, probably for some, old-fashioned one. I found it marvelous. Again, Clouzot's approach uses noirish lighting and probably somewhat overactive intercutting that is dramatic.

Sound is of its time; don't expect modern sound. The real value of this DVD is for its two rehearsal segments, particularly the one for the Schumann, which is extraordinary.

Recommended with the understanding that this is more for Karajan's rehearsal technique than for the performances themselves. Those of you who will be interested in this know who you are.

Scott Morrison
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