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Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 2 - Karajan

Beethoven: Symphonies 1 & 2 - Karajan

Deutsche Grammophon  474 601-2

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - January 14, 2006

Karajan's fascination with the shock of the new is apparent right from the very opening of the first symphony. The accents are all in place (which seemed to disappear somewhat as time progressed through Karajan's LvB cycles for DG) and there is no doubting the fire and electricity of the partnership between Karajan & the Berliner's. On the whole tempi are pretty conventional even by today's standards, and unlike in some symphonies that Karajan conducted, the exposition repeats of the first & fourth movements are observed - not in the second movement though. In fact the only movement in which the interpretation really reveals its age is the Menuetto which is nowhere near the Allegro molto e vivace that is marked and to which I have become accustomed. This aside, it is a very good reading indeed, one which leads me to understand why the Berliners appointed Karajan and why Karajan became, in the general publics' mind at least, *the* conductor of Beethoven.

The second symphony open's with a really dramatic "big" orchestral statement despite the generally lean strings. Unlike in the first symphony, the exposition repeat is not observed which is a shame given the absolutely thrilling playing & conducting on display - it is so good that I almost forget that it is only recorded in stereo! In the Larghetto, the vibrato is so gentle that one really could imagine the playing gaining plaudits for following HIP today. A feature that is noticeable is how well controlled the textures are despite the large orchestra - the Berliners must have been absolutely head & shoulders above all else at this time such is the level of detail that is audible (and in a time before DG became obsessed with multi-miking). The Allegro molto truly leaps off the page with electricity but that is not to say that the lyrical passages get careful phrasing. Brilliant playing, marvellous & self-effacing conducting.

The recorded sound, whilst the best I have heard this set in (yet?!?), does tend to show its age in the violins but is full of detail and has a nice balance between reverberation and dryness. The notes are specially written for this release by Richard Osborne (all languages) which, as is the trend from the "major" companies these days, concentrates on Karajan not Beethoven.

Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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See also 474 600-2.