Bruckner: Symphonies 7-9 - Karajan

Bruckner: Symphonies 7-9 - Karajan

Universal (Japan)  UCGG-9117/9 (3 discs)

Stereo Single Layer

Classical - Orchestral

Bruckner: Symphonies 7-9, Te Deum
Wagner: Siegfried Idyll

Anna Tomowa-Sintow (soprano)
Agnes Baltsa (alto)
Peter Schreier (tenor)
José van Dam (bass)
Wiener Singverein
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

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5 of 6 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Analogue recording

Recorded in January 1975 (Symphony No. 8); in April 1975 (Symphony No. 7); in September 1975 (Symphony No. 9) and in May 1976 (Te Deum) at the Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany, 16/44.1

Producer: Dr. Hans Hirsch

Recording producers: Magdalene Padberg and Michel Glotz

Balance engineers: Klaus Hiemann (Te Deum) and Günter Hermanns (Te Deum and the Symphonies)

Remastered at DSD 64fs in 2017 by Emil Berliner Studios, Berlin, Germany, using the original analogue master tapes of DG.
Comments (14)

Comment by aquarius510123 - January 31, 2018 (1 of 14)

Symphonies 7 and 8 are NOT the more highly regarded versions that were recorded by Karajan in the late 80's with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Comment by Ramesh Nair - February 28, 2018 (2 of 14)

I just received this set. Disc 1 also includes Karajan's recording of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, from 1977. Confusingly the front cover art of this 3 SACD set makes no mention of its inclusion. I dimly recall that the Bruckner 7 was originally issued on a double LP set with the Wagner on side 4, which would explain its appearance on the disc.
This performance of the Siegfried Idyll is marvellous. It's well-groomed as was Karajan's style, yet lacks the mannerisms of excess string legato playing that marred many individual movements of his later recordings of Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms. It lasts for 19'34'', which is a good three minutes more leisurely than Toscanini's celebrated 1930s NYP recording. The flute in particular is sublime. I wondered whether the performer was James Galway, who was a member of the BPO for a number of years. If so, he was yet to develop the somewhat 'pingy' sound that characterised his later solo-superstar recordings.

Comment by Athenaeus - April 11, 2019 (3 of 14)

Does anyone know why Symphonies 1, 2 and 3 were never released on SACD? They were also part of Karajan's Bruckner cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Comment by Contrapunctus - April 11, 2019 (4 of 14)

Symphonies 1-3 were recorded digitally in PCM (16/44.1). Especially No.1 suffers a lot from the new digital technology (strings sound horrible and distorted). No.2 is my favorite among the three - sound is acceptable and orchestral playing is amazing.

I think that these recording's capabilties are limited if converted/upsampled to SACD. Nevertheless Esoteric (Japan) is quite engaged in producing SACDs derived from digital recordings (e.g. Bruckner 8 VPO/Karajan). And even Universal Music Japan LLC produced some SHM-SACDs with digital recordings (Sibelius: orchestral works/Karajan/BPO; Grieg: Peer Gynt Suites/Karajan/BPO).

It's a bit tragic with all these early digital recordings of the 1980's (mostly PCM 16/44.1). It's almost impossible to improve them in terms of more resolution.

Comment by Athenaeus - April 11, 2019 (5 of 14)

Thank you, Contrapunctus, for your prompt and informed reply. I guess then we should applaud Universal Japan and Emil Berliner Studios for not having released these as SACDs. It would have been easy for them to make a few extra bucks by also releasing Symphonies 1 to 3 in order to complete the set, even though the result would not have been up to standard.

Comment by Sinclair - June 1, 2019 (6 of 14)

I, too, was wondering why Nos 1 to 3 had not been released; now I know why. I have the set of Karajan's 4, 5 & 6 (mainly for the glorious account of No. 5), which all sound very good on SACD (although when you play No.5 alongside the original LP version, you realise how good LP is). I would also not buy the set of 7 - 9; as has been stated the later VPO versions of 7 & 8 are superior and I wouldn't spend the money just to have No. 9 on SACD. Shame that 1 to 3 hit the early digital era...

Comment by John Proffitt - June 8, 2019 (7 of 14)

Re Symphonies 1 - 3: as early digital recordings, it is almost certain that DG would have recorded the sessions simultaneously with analogue tape safety copies. It would be possible to get far superior sounding results for Symphonies 1 - 3 were DG to go back to the analogue safety tapes. However, these were likely raw session tapes, unedited, which would be a big expense to now edit and transfer to high-resolution digital. So...highly unlikely.

Comment by DYB - June 21, 2019 (8 of 14)

There is a box set coming out of all the symphonies - I guess we have to wait and see if the Symphonies 1 - 3 received some form of remastering...

Comment by John Broggio - June 23, 2019 (9 of 14)

According to the blurb on JPC, symphonies 1-3 were upsampled to 192/24; how effective that was remains to be heard...

(And I'm personally a bit disappointed that the same process wasn't applied as was for Bernstein's Beethoven cycle.)

Comment by STEVEN J DEMENA - July 7, 2019 (10 of 14)

I see mention that Symphonies 1-3 were recorded in "PCM (16/44.1)" Do we know what equipment they used? Sony? A related question applies to the OIBM (Original Image Bit Processing) process. This is supposed to involve dithering. But if Karajan's early digital recordings were in 16/44.1 there would be no dithering. I've had other people tell me they would have been using proprietary digital recorders with maybe 24 bit/48kHz or something with non-standard 20 bit or 50kHz sampling rate.

Comment by Tony Reif - July 8, 2019 (11 of 14)

AFAIK, whatever converters DG used in the 80s would have been 16/44.1. (24-bit recording only started around the mid 90s; those early digital systems such as Soundstream were 16 bits). I don't think DG ever explained the OIBP process, which began around 1995, but as it applied to digital originals it may have involved processing at 21 bits, the word length their 4D AD converter worked at, and bit-mapping back to 16 (all at 44.1?). This is not exactly the same thing as dithering, but anyway the results certainly improved on those really harsh early digital CDs such as Kleiber's Brahms 4 from 1981. These 3 Bruckner symphonies are from 1981/82 and were not re-released in the Karajan Gold series, which used OIBP. Upsampling to 24/192 could further improve things, particularly if EBS has also remixed from the multi-tracks, as Rainer Maillard told me they have done with all their analogue transfers since 1990. Just how much new/improved sonic information results from all this is hard to say, but there's no doubt that just upsampling to 24/192 makes a difference when using modern DACs.

Comment by DYB - July 8, 2019 (12 of 14)

Tony, I don't think EBS has had access to 1-3. Universal Japan - which had EBS remastering - did not include 1-3. And this new DG release was not done by EBS as far as I know.

Comment by Dissonance - June 12, 2020 (13 of 14)

[For the 7th Symphony] I personally prefer and respect more Karajan’s later ”his last” recording with Wiener Philharmoniker, made digitally in April 1989 at Musikverein. It’s hoped Universal (Japan) or Esoteric will re-release it on SA-CD, the CD release ”Karajan Gold”, featuring ’Original-Image Bit-Processing”, didn’t convince...

Comment by Contrapunctus - June 20, 2020 (14 of 14)

Dissonance, there's no need to wait for a (expensive) 'better-sounding' release of the mentioned recording. If you really own the old 'Karajan-GOLD' CD then there's hope for you, because there are two newer releases in RB-CD format featuring a better digital copy. Please look for either the SHM-CD (Sept. 2016) or the UHQCD (March 2017). I really can say out of own experience with some other releases of this series that these new releases actually sound better sompared to the old cd releases (e.g. Karajan's digital version of 'the planets'). - The improvements are probably not due exotic materials but a more accurate copy of the original digital audio source.

(To everyone else: please apologize for this off-topic comment, because it's not hi-res!)