Schoenberg, Berg Webern: Orchestral works - Karajan

Schoenberg, Berg Webern: Orchestral works - Karajan

Universal (Japan)  UCGG-9202 (2 discs)

Stereo Single Layer

Classical - Orchestral

Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisand, Verklärte Nacht, Variations for orchestra
Berg: 3 Orchestral Pieces, 3 Pieces from 'Lyrische Suite'
Webern: Passacaglia, 5 Movements, 6 Orchestral Pieces, Symphony

Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan

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

Analogue recording
Comments (16)

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 18, 2021 (1 of 16)

Sorry for being so colloquial, but ... that's awesome! Karajan's recordings of selected works by Schönberg, Webern and Berg from 1972-1974 are probably one of his most important albums.

So far I've listened only to a few tracks of this new 2 SACD set. Compared to the corresponding RBCDs of the Karajan 1970s recordings it's a difference like night and day. Really impressive. There's so much more detail, transparency and spaciousness in the new EBS remaster. This highly complex music vastly benefits from the improved sound.

Comment by Aastroem - August 19, 2021 (2 of 16)

Did you know that DG didn't want to do this? So Karajan payed for the recordings himself.

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 19, 2021 (3 of 16)

Yes, Aastroem, I've read it at different places online, but I'm (always) a bit skeptical about these kind of information (or rumors). Since, unsurprisingly, I cannot read the Japanese booklet for the SACD, I am still missing important information. The Japanese booklet apparently contains almost only the accompanying texts from the 1970s. So I bought an original LP version of this album on ebay. As soon as I have received it, I'll read the original text accompanying the 4-LP box. However, I doubt whether the original booklet from the 1970s contains anything special about the financing of the recordings. But who knows?

The repertoire of this album is definitely not easy to digest. However, not all pieces are atonal. For example, Schönberg's "Transfigured Night" op.4 and "Pelleas et Melisande" op. 5 tie in with the highly chromatic late romanticism. And in Webern's "Passacaglia" op. 1 one feels in places reminiscent of the late Mahler symphonies (9 & 10).

I admit that I wasn't particularly familiar with this music before. But with the appearance of this new edition I will deal more closely with these works, not least because of the excellent new sound!

Comment by Aastroem - August 22, 2021 (4 of 16)

Contrapunctus, I remember an ad in Gramophone where DG in a long text bragged about how Karajan reseated some of the musicians in order to receive the best balance i the Schoenberg Variations. In every variation that is. Not really a selling point I think and I certainly can't hear it.

Comment by marc lubin - August 22, 2021 (5 of 16)

Regarding your comment:

So Karajan payed for the recordings himself.

I looked it up in Richard Osbourne's book 'Conversations with Von Karajan' and, on page 120, there is:

R.O: You have mentioned the problems Webern had with poor performances in the 1930s. Your own four-record set devoted to music of the Second Viennese School was, I know, one of your most cherished projects.

Hvk: No one wanted me to do the set, so I paid for it myself. And, you know, I worked it out that if you pile up all the sets- the record and cassette boxes-we eventually sold, they would reach the top of the Eiffel Tower. This, I must say, gave me great pleasure.

Then he follows with a long paragraph providing details about reseating the orchestra for each variation of the Schoenberg variations. It's too much to enter in, but if you provide me with your email address, I can scan it in and send it to you.
I haven't received my copy of these SACDs yet, I think because I ordered the Bach Brandenburg set at the same time. Since the Bach hasn't been released yet, CD Japan probably wants to send them together.

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 23, 2021 (6 of 16)

Thanks a lot for your advice regarding the sources! Marc, thank you for your offer. I'm tempted to get the whole book by myself. - In the meantime I've received my original 1970s 4-LP set: the LP booklet doesn't tell something about the financing circumstances. Well, that was to be expected as it's a DG release and DG wouldn't have mentioned that they actually didn't want this production. Even if some of the pieces on this album are definitely not "easy listening", I see the album more and more as a total work of art, because the extraordinary cover also falls out of the ordinary forming an unit with the music.

Comment by marc lubin - August 23, 2021 (7 of 16)

Contrapunctus, If you are considering purchasing Osborne's 'Conversations with Karajan' book, you should definitely also consider his magnum opus Karajan book, entitled 'Karajan, A Life in Music' which is 850 pages!

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 24, 2021 (8 of 16)

Thank you for the suggestion, Marc! Actually, I'm going to buy Osborne's 'A life in music' first.

Comment by marc lubin - August 24, 2021 (9 of 16)

Good decision. Since you're obviously a Karajan fan, as I am, I'm sure you'll find it very interesting.

Comment by DYB - August 26, 2021 (10 of 16)

I downloaded DSFs of this release from e-Onkyo Japan and it truly is spectacular, performance and remaster. I've heard most of these performances before (Esoteric released a couple of the titles previously as well.) But it's great to have them in one place, so nicely remastered.

Comment by Contrapunctus - August 27, 2021 (11 of 16)

DYB, I envy you for having access to Japanese e-onkyo! (Unfortunately, here in Europe/Germany it's unobtainable.)

Comment by DYB - September 4, 2021 (12 of 16)

Contrapunctus: it's not available to me either! But I'm able to get around it. Is there a way to contact people directly? I could explain to you how I do it.

Comment by Contrapunctus - September 5, 2021 (13 of 16)

DYB, I think it's apparently not intended by this side to allow private communication between members. I'd enjoy some private discussion with a few members here. - I have no clue how to get in contact without giving away email addresses to the public (here in the comments). - Anyway, I reckon that it needs some effort (e.g. Japanese credit card, appropriate VPN etc.) to get in touch with Japanese e-onkyo.

Comment by Mark Werlin - September 7, 2021 (14 of 16)

Contrapunctus and DYB: Please feel free to email me through my mailto: link in the "About" page. I can facilitate your off-site discussion.

Comment by Music On Record - September 27, 2021 (15 of 16)

Have just discovered this site and this is my first comment. I have just bought this set and am glorying in this superb remastering. This set of LPs has long been one of my favorite Karajan recordings (I bought it the week it came out) and TBH the LPs always sounded really good. However, this remastering scrubs away what I imagine was processing added in the final mix down/mastering, and, as Contrapunctus states, the result is you can really hear more deeply into the music. I have now bought several of the Emil Berliner SACD remasters, and they are revelatory. I am so curious as to how they achieve such incredible results - I wonder if they go back into the multi-track masters and remix, to an extent. The set of Kubelik Beethoven symphonies, for example, shoots to the top of my go-to recordings as a result of the improvement in sound quality. Clearly I am going to have to acquire more of these Berliner SACDs..... BTW, for anyone interested, Testament issued a superb live Karajan/BPO version of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht which is incandescent; like most of the Karajan live recordings, very different to his studio equivalents, far more intense and risk-taking, and somewhat putting the lie to his detractors' portrayal of him as overly concerned with plush sound at the expense of everything else. I will also second the recommendation to read Richard Osborne's biography: one of the best books about a musician - and conducting - out there.

Comment by Contrapunctus - September 28, 2021 (16 of 16)

Welcome aboard, Music On Record! - I can totally understand your enthusiasm about the EBS remasterings for Universal Japan (= SHM-SACD) and TowerRecords (= Hybrid SACD). Regarding EBS's work-flow: please have a look at the comments of Karajan/Sibelius: symphonies 4-7 etc (UCGG-9105).

You mentioned Kubelik's DG Beethoven cycle on SHM-SACD which I also like, but looking at the whole range of Beethoven symphony cycles on SHM-SACD (only DG recordings remastered by EBS), I'd probably choose Böhm's cycle (UCGG-9136/40) because of its (IMO) outstanding sound. (Only judging sound quality, not the interpretation.) Another EBS remaster I don't want to miss: Kubelik's Dvorak symphony cycle (PROC-2164/8).