Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Precise performance but too slow in places
on 3 November 2012
In general I am a big Karajan fan but having purchased this cd I went looking for another version. First, there are many positives to this record and many will no doubt find it perfect. The playing is very polished as you would expect and the sound quality excellent. My chief quible lay with the adagio of the Scottish. For me the pace taken by Karajan is simply too slow and, taken with the heavy playing of the BPO, sounds ponderous. It makes Mendelssohn sound Teutonic rather than from the lighter climes of Hamberg. This timing (the adagio weighs in at 11 minutes 47 seconds) is in no measure unique, indeed on investigation another well thought of recording, from Abbado, has a similarly 'sluggish' timing of the Adagio, for me it simply doesn't hold the drama of the climaxes at that speed.
In the Italian symphony too I feel the third movement 'Con moto moderato' is also far too slow and sleepish. Perhaps I've just got used to faster timings over the years, but I finally found satisfaction with the Haitink LPO version of these two symphonies; the adagio of the Scottish is 3 minutes shorter whilst the third movement of the Italian is a whole 2 minutes quicker at just under 6 minutes, producing, for me, a more satisfying flowing line. Although a more recent recording, the sound quality doesn't quite match the excellence of the DG one, and the playing is just short in weight and refinement, but I am much more satisfied with the result, whilst the Karajan version will be an interesting alternative to occasionally play.
I admire nearly all the Karajan recordings I own but am aware of at least one other example where I feel the same way; his version of At the Castle Gate from Sibelius's Pelleas et Melisande drags after being used to hearing a brisker version for years on The Sky at Night (I think by Beecham).