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Beethoven: Symphonies 7 & 8 - Karajan

Beethoven: Symphonies 7 & 8 - Karajan

Deutsche Grammophon  474 604-2

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8

Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - January 14, 2006

The seventh symphony is treated to a real high-voltage account here from the Berliners & Karajan. This symphony, once dubbed "the apotheosis of the dance" by Wagner, is played with so much vigour that it would be impossible for most attempt to try and bounce along with the music! Right from the deceptive introduction one sense immediately that Beethoven and Karajan have some very powerful music up their sleeves awaiting to be unleashed. After some towering scales, the volume quietens and so the Allegro steals in before building to a mini-climax after which the dance-like music sweeps all before it in joyous abandon. The "slow" movement (Allegretto) follows with a seemingly simple motif in the strings which is then treated to some of the best variations that Beethoven wrote and the more dramatic moments get a very passionate response from Karajan, encouraging the Berliners to "sing". The subsequent Presto - Trio movement is very well judged with neither too breathless a start nor sluggish trios. After this the concluding Allegro con brio is exactly that - it just makes me wonder that Karajan didn't choose to conduct other music of this time with similar elan. This marvellous work ends with simply ecstatic and highly virtuostic playing.

The eighth symphony is, in terms of performance time, one of Beethoven's shortest symphonies but I find it to be incredibly concentrated with the use of its material. Interpretatively there is nothing to quibble at until the third movement (Tempo di Menuetto) where those used to HIP will complain that the tempo (in contrast to those used in the seventh symphony) is far too slow and here the phrasing does feel a bit leaden. This is a shame as both the opening movement and the metronomic second movement are done very well by Karajan and the Berliners. The slower tempo does however make the ensuing Finale seem all the more fleet-of-foot (not that weight is at all lacking - the astonishing modulation to F# minor is very powerful indeed). Very enjoyable overall.

The sound is acceptable, with the strings in particular sounding a little dated. The notes from Richard Osborne as with the other releases in this series concentrate too much on Karajan not Beethoven. The slow Tempo di Menuetto of the eight symphony aside, this disc is a most enjoyable part of the cycle.

Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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See also 474 600-2.