Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 - Karajan (1977)

Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 - Karajan (1977)

Tokyo FM  TFMCSA0041 (2 discs)

Stereo Single Layer

Classical - Orchestral

Beethoven: 9 Symphonies

Barbara Hendricks (soprano), Heljä Angervo (alto), Hermann Winkler (tenor), Hans Sotin (bass)
Tokyo University of the Arts Chorus
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

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Analogue recording
Comments (8)

Comment by Kveld-Úlfr - December 12, 2021 (1 of 8)

Given the cast, that would be the 1977 series of these Beethoven symphonies by Karajan.
This release when then be an SA-CD alternative to the Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9 - Karajan (1977) blu-ray release, also by Tokyo FM.
Interestingly, everything stands on two discs here. We shall safely assume that means srereo only, on single-layer long length discs, as BIS did for instance (4-hour discs).

Comment by Joseph Ponessa - December 19, 2021 (2 of 8)

This is not the 1977 studio set; it is a live set from the same year recorded on tour in Japan. Unlike the studio set, which has manifested itself in quadraphonic form on blu-ray audio (and the Ninth on SACD), the live set has appeared only in stereo.
Here are the performance dates:
— November 13: the FIRST and THIRD
— November 14: the SECOND
— November 15: the FOURTH and SEVENTH
— November 16: the SIXTH and FIFTH
— November 17: the EIGHTH
— November 18: the NINTH
I have the five-SACD original release, in order of performance (SECOND and EIGHTH together).
I have the five-BDA release, in order of performance (SECOND and EIGHTH together).
Now I have the two-SACD re-release, in numerical (compositional) order.
The original release is quite audibly superior sonically to the other two.
After the new one arrived a couple of weeks ago, I compared, and ended up listening to the whole original set.
I have triple-dipped, but had it right the first time.

Comment by Sintolt the Hegeling - December 20, 2021 (3 of 8)

Mr. Ponessa, I have found you to be a reliable guide to the sound quality of competing SACD masterings. Can you tell us specifically what it is about the new single-layer issue of Karajan's 1977 Tokyo Beethoven set that falls short of the original hybrid SACD issue?

Comment by Kveld-Úlfr - December 21, 2021 (4 of 8)

Many thanks for this informative and detailed correction.

Comment by Joseph Ponessa - December 21, 2021 (5 of 8)

Sintolt the Hegeling,
Thank you for the inquiry. You caught me just in time before I took the 2-disc set to my other house, where duplicate sets reside as a form of fire insurance. I popped the blu-ray set into my last-generation OPPO, and played the two SACD releases in the Marantz SA-10.
The blu-ray came up short against both SACD sets. However, since it had to be played in another machine, it was not a true A/B comparison. The blu-ray, by the way, has both 96/24 and 192/24 channels, and both of them came up quite short.
As for the SACDs, the original 5-disc set sounded more like Karajan, who was strong on the sostenuto and insisted on every note being held for its full count. On the 2-disc set, the notes are attenuated; on the 5-disc set, they are sustained. Also, the different sections of the orchestra come in more together on the 5 discs. The sections that are more attenuated in general seem to hit the beat slightly later. I am sure this is only an aural illusion, but it makes the discs seem to come from different recording sessions. Since both the attacks and the sustained notes are more vigorous on the 5 discs, the overall musicality is greatly enhanced.
Actually, I have been spending time lately comparing the Dune book with all of the filmed versions. "We too are Harkonens!" Thank you for getting me back into the sanity of the music zone.

Comment by Sintolt the Hegeling - December 21, 2021 (6 of 8)

Mr. Ponessa, thank you for your detailed comparisons. They are most helpful.

Comment by Joelha - July 29, 2022 (7 of 8)


I'm fascinated by your findings and am hoping I can trouble you to post an image of the original SACD set.

I cannot find any of them listed anywhere for sale.

Also, I'm wondering which you prefer sonically between the bluray and double sacd set you have.

Thanks very much for the great information you've offered.


Comment by Joseph Ponessa - August 1, 2022 (8 of 8)

I misspoke when I referred to the "original 5-disc set." It was rather a set of 5 individual releases, which were also released on the Tokyo FM label, and still are catalogued on this site, except for symphonies 7 & 8, which no longer seem to be available anywhere. I still have all the releases, and the originals sound distinctly better, not only the SQ but also the character of the mix.