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Tag: Herbert von Karajan

Berliner Philharmoniker & Herbert von Karajan – Bruckner: Symphonies No. 4 – No. 9 (2019) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

Berliner Philharmoniker & Herbert von Karajan – Bruckner: Symphonies No. 4 – No. 9 (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/192 kHz | Time – 06:52:21 minutes | 16,8 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Neues ReMaster: Anlässlich des 30. Todestages Herbert von Karajans präsentiert Deutsche Grammophon den legendären Zyklus der Bruckner-Sinfonien mit den Berliner Philharmonikern.

Karajans Bruckner-Zyklus mit den Berliner Philharmonikern, aufgenommen zwischen Januar 1975 und Januar 1981, ist ein Meilenstein in der Geschichte der Bruckner-Aufnahmen. Diese Einspielungen zeugen von dem überaus feinen Gespür dieses einzigartigen Maestros und zählen zweifellos zu Karajans bedeutendsten Aufnahmen – gewiss handelt es sich aber auch um eine der tiefgründigsten Bruckner-Interpretationen überhaupt.

“Karajan sieht das Brucknersche Klangbild im ganzen, der großbogige Orchestergesang bedeutet ihm das Entscheidende. Auf diese Weise erhalten Bruckners Symphonien bei ihm eine spezifische Geschlossenheit. Hervorragend präsentes und konturen- reiches Klangbild, vorzügliche breite Räumlichkeit.” (FonoForum)

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies Nos. 4–6 1973 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The Berliner Philharmoniker’s long and distinguished tradition of Tchaikovsky performance can be traced back to their founding years. Tchaikovsky himself knew and admired the orchestra’s two earliest principal conductors Hans von Bülow and Artur Nikisch. Their inspired advocacy of his music – the last three symphonies in particular – would be continued by their similarly dedicated and charismatic successors Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan. 

The 20-year-old Karajan included Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in his very first professional concert in Salzburg in January 1929. The Pathétique Symphony followed in Ulm in 1933. He told his parents, “When it was all over, the audience sat as if dead for ten seconds, then bawled their approval as if at a football match.” In 1939, the year after his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Karajan recorded the Pathétique with the orchestra. The artistic self-possession he displayed in his handling of both the music and the orchestra was widely noted at the time. By now he also had in his repertoire the tragic yet electrifying Fourth Symphony, a work of which he would become one of the great interpreters.

Karajan and his director of photography Ernst Wild made these films in Berlin in 1973 at the end of a decade during which he and a group of distinguished avant-garde film directors had changed the way orchestral music was realised on screen. The films reveal Karajan’s work at its vital and imaginative best. They are also a visual reminder of some of the qualities which the critic of the Salzburger Volksblatt had noted in Karajan’s debut concert in 1929: “Not a declamatory conductor but a leader of suggestive power”, “baton technique and posture calm”, “the primeval power of his musicality”. Forty years on, all this – and more – is vividly on display.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Ravel and Debussy 1978 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

During the 30-year-old Herbert von Karajan’s first encounter with the Berliner Philharmoniker in April 1938, he asked for separate sectional rehearsals in the suite from Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé. The players were not amused, claiming that they knew the piece perfectly well. Karajan recalled: “With all the impudence of youth, I replied, ‘Well, we’ll see, shall we?’. I then went straight to the hardest sections with the violas, and they couldn’t manage them at all.” The performance was a triumph. Berlin’s most respected independent critic Heinrich Strobel wrote that he could not recall hearing a more atmospheric, more brilliantly coloured or more dazzlingly exact reading than this.

It was Karajan’s aim during his 33 years with the Berliner Philharmoniker, which he took over from Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1955, to create individual sound “palettes” for individual composers, and nowhere more so than in the music of such early 20th-century masters as Debussy, Ravel, Sibelius, Strauss and Puccini. His conducting of Debussy’s haunting and musically revolutionary Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was widely admired by fellow musicians. The distinguished Wagner conductor Reginald Goodall marvelled at a performance which was “ice-cold” yet which also conveyed what he called “the heat of the hot, burning Grecian sun”. Watching Karajan conducting this or the larger ensemble required by Debussy in a movement such as “Jeux de vagues” from La Mer (another Karajan speciality, abetted by his own specialist knowledge of sailing and the sea) is particularly instructive. The film was made in 1978, the year in which he finally recorded in Berlin a work which was also very close to his heart, Debussy’s death-haunted opera Pelléas et Mélisande.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Brahms’s Symphonies Nos. 1–4 1973 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Brahms tradition goes back to the orchestra’s earliest years when in 1887 Brahms’s friend and musical ally Hans von Bülow became its artistic director. As Herbert von Karajan was fond of pointing out, Brahms and Bülow did not always see eye to eye about the interpretation of Brahms’s music. Bülow was a stickler for strict tempi; Brahms was more given to what he himself called “slowings and accelerations”. Two inspirational conductors followed Bülow in Berlin, Arthur Nikisch (1895–1922) and Wilhelm Furtwängler (1922–54), a noted Brahmsian much given to “slowings and accelerations”. It was a style of playing – rooted in a rich, rounded orchestral sound and a willingness to move freely between tempi within a single commanding pulse – which Karajan inherited and made his own.

The First Symphony, over which Brahms laboured so long, is an openly passionate work. It is also the symphony which Karajan conducted more than any other. In his early years he used it as a musical calling-card at important debut concerts in Aachen (1934), Amsterdam (1938) and Vienna (1946). It was also the work with which he concluded the opening concert of his own and the Berliner Philharmoniker’s first ever North American tour in Washington in February 1955

Away from complete cycles, Karajan conducted the Third Symphony relatively infrequently. This was not the case, however, where the lyrical Second and the fateful Fourth were concerned. Karajan loved both works and rarely conducted a less than memorable performance of either. At his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker on 8 April 1938, the programme concluded with the Fourth. Writing in the Berliner Tageblatt, the distinguished critic Heinrich Strobel praised the performance for its “rhythmic inexorability”, its “incredible musical energy” and the “intensity of its melodic shaping”.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Brahms’s German Requiem 1978 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Herbert von Karajan first conducted Brahms’s German Requiem in Aachen in 1936, having originally studied the work as a young boy with his harmony teacher, Salzburg Cathedral organist Franz Sauer. In 1937, the great German baritone Hans Hotter sang the Requiem with Karajan and the Aachen choir and orchestra in Brussels. Karajan was something of a firebrand at the time, yet Hotter recalled: “The thing I remember was the absolute control he had over his emotional behaviour. He was only 29 yet he conducted one of the most moving performances I have come across in my whole life.”

After the Second World War, Karajan worked more or less exclusively with the Wiener Singverein, the choir of which Brahms himself had been concert director in 1872–75. It was a relationship which had been cemented with a recording of the German Requiem made in Vienna in 1947, the first complete set to be made for the gramophone and one which remains unique, not least because of the feeling it preserves of a true requiem: a cry de profundis from a desolate people in a desolated city.

Begun shortly after the death of Brahms’ mother in 1865, the German Requiem was originally in six movements. Brahms later added a seventh, the exquisite soprano aria “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit”. As Elisabeth Schwarzkopf the soloist on Karajan’s 1947 Vienna recording explained, it is an exceptionally difficult aria to sing, “the vocal line is so high, the emotion so deep”. When Karajan re-recorded the work for Deutsche Grammophon with the Wiener Singverein and the Berliner Philharmoniker in Vienna in May 1964, the 26-year-old Gundula Janowitz was his chosen soloist, as she would remain until this, her last performance with him, at the 1978 Salzburg Easter Festival.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 1977 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The Berliner Philharmoniker first played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the direction of Herbert von Karajan on the occasion of the orchestra’s 75th birthday in April 1957. It was also the work with which Karajan and the orchestra inaugurated Berlin’s new Philharmonie concert hall in October 1963. With its message of the brotherhood of man, the symphony had long carried its own special significance, not least in Berlin during the city’s years of division between West and East. New Year’s Eve performances of the symphony were broadcast live from Berlin in 1967, 1970 and 1977. Karajan’s decision to film the 1977 concert was influenced in part by his belief that the orchestra’s sound had taken on a new power and reach, not least in passages such as the great string recitatives which open the symphony’s finale. After recovering from a serious spinal illness which had nearly cost him his life in the winter of 1975-76, he himself was also returning to the work with a renewed intensity. 

The director of the 1977 telecast was the 46-year-old British television producer Humphrey Burton. Karajan approved Burton’s shooting script but insisted on going through it in close detail, keen to ensure that the camera-work was at one with the music’s rhythm and line. “There was no taint of egocentricity here,” Burton recalls. “Karajan’s only concern was the music.”

The broadcast was part of Karajan’s continuing mission to bring great music to a new global audience. Speaking to the orchestra after the performance, he noted with satisfaction that the broadcast had been seen by over 100 million viewers in Europe, Japan and elsewhere. He described the act of music-making as a symbol of harmony, and expressed happiness that he and the orchestra had presented the Ninth as they believed it to be.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 1968 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Herbert von Karajan first conducted Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Aachen in November 1939 and made a first, highly regarded recording of it in Vienna in 1947. After he conducted the symphony in London in 1949 The Times wrote: “This was a breath-taking performance. Mr von Karajan achieved his effect by concentrating, not on its dramatic or philosophical elements, but on its musical power and lyric beauty.” Later, during his Berlin years, Karajan’s reading would become leaner, quicker and more explicitly dramatic.

The present performance of the Ninth is based on concerts given in the Berlin Philharmonie on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 1968. The film, which marked Karajan’s debut as a film director, was not released during his lifetime, possibly because of a perceived mismatch between the choral parts of the finale, which were filmed in the Philharmonie, and the preceding parts of the symphony which were recorded in a television studio – with a fake audience – using the original sound recording. Notwithstanding these discrepancies, Karajan’s directorial debut impresses with its unusual editing and lighting techniques learned from earlier collaborations with film-makers Henri-Georges Clouzot and Hugo Niebeling.

A hypnotic presence on the rostrum, Karajan conducted concerts – though not operas or choral works – with closed eyes. In this 1968 Berlin Beethoven Ninth, it is in the choral finale that we see the “complete” Karajan: the master conductor, his eyes very much open in the vocal sections, symbiotically at one with soloists, choir and orchestra. Here, too, we glimpse the humanity of the man behind the mask, unflinchingly committed to the music and the musicians it was his privilege to serve.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 1967 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

During the first 24 years of Herbert von Karajan’s professional career, he conducted the Pastoral Symphony on only two occasions: in Aachen in 1936 and Berlin in 1944. Yet his first recording of the symphony, made in London in 1953, quickly became the version of choice in a market that already included performances by such eminent rivals as Beecham, De Sabata, Furtwängler, Erich Kleiber, Klemperer and Toscanini. As the prestigious Record Guide put it: “Like all Karajan’s Beethoven readings, his account of the Pastoral is suffused with lyricism; orchestral tone and phrasing are tenderly nursed. The performance as a whole has a great sweep, and Karajan ranges through a bigger landscape than usual. It is a modern recreation of the Pastoral, yet one faithful to the spirit of Beethoven’s score.”

After his election as artistic director of the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1955, Karajan programmed the Pastoral rather more regularly. During concert cycles of the Nine, he generally paired it with the Fifth. At other times he was inclined to set it alongside early 20th-century masterpieces – music by composers such as Debussy, Sibelius and even on occasion Stravinsky – whose orchestral tone-painting and evocations of the natural world “matched” those of the Pastoral as Karajan heard and imagined it. 

This fine 1967 performance of the symphony was recorded in Berlin’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Dahlem. The filming by award-winning modernist director Hugo Niebeling took place in Artur Brauner’s CCC studios in Berlin. An essay in expressionist film-making that deployed “black” light alongside abstract and even occasionally distorted images, the film was widely criticised for being closer to the world of Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night than that of Beethoven’s Pastoral. Karajan had reservations about the experiment but later engaged Niebeling to direct what would be landmark filmings of the Third and Seventh Symphonies.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 1972 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

No orchestra has been more closely associated with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on record and on film over the last 100 years than the Berliner Philharmoniker. Arthur Nikisch’s pioneering 1913 recording for the Gramophone Company and Wilhelm Furtwängler’s celebrated 1937 HMV recording were followed in the era of Herbert von Karajan by a series of films and recordings which were no less imposing. 

“Throw away your first hundred Fifths!” Karajan would tell younger conductors, such are the challenges the work offers. Yet we have it on good authority that his own early performances were remarkably assured. In September 1938, he included the work in what was only his second concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Leading Berlin critic Heinrich Strobel was struck by the rhythmic power of the performance and its structural logic. At his London début in April 1948, Karajan ended the concert with the Fifth. At the final rehearsal he simply asked the orchestra to let him hear how powerfully, consistent with beauty of tone, it could play the symphony’s final C major chords. All great Karajan performances had a destination towards which they moved.

Karajan’s first filmed performance of Beethoven’s Fifth, shot in black and white with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1966, was part of the series The Art of Conducting which he made in collaboration with the French director Henri-Georges Clouzot. In later years Karajan was masterminding his own films in collaboration with his director of photography Ernst Wild. Based on a live concert performance given before an invited audience in the Berlin Philharmonie, this 1972 film of the Fifth Symphony shows the orchestra marrying a depth of tone Nikisch and Furtwängler would have recognised with a new-found brilliance of attack which Karajan’s Toscanini-inspired Beethoven readings had brought to the Berlin tradition.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Karajan conducts Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 7 1971 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Herbert von Karajan first conducted Beethoven in public in Ulm in 1931. The work was the Eroica Symphony, an ambitious undertaking for a 23-year-old assistant Kapellmeister directing a small provincial opera orchestra. “One listened and was astonished,” reported the local newspaper.

As a young man Karajan worked assiduously to reconcile the old Wagner-derived German Romantic school of Beethoven interpretation with the quicker and texturally more transparent style of Beethoven interpretation which was being pioneered by conductors such as Arturo Toscanini and Richard Strauss. It was a daunting task. Speaking of the Bacchanalian Seventh Symphony, Karajan recalled: “When I was a young conductor in Germany, it was usual to conduct the finale much slower than we hear nowadays. I knew this was wrong but I couldn’t escape this tradition because of the difficulty of realising the inner content of the music.”

Part of Karajan’s inheritance when he became artistic director of the Berliner Philharmoniker was the visceral intensity of the orchestra’s playing. This became an important element in the now legendary Beethoven performances which he and his players gave on record and in concert halls in Europe, Japan and the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. In London in 1961 a critic wrote: “The playing throughout the evening was truly superb, every instrumentalist bowing and blowing and thumping as though for dear life. The violins waved and swayed like cornstalks in the wind. Every note had vitality, yet every note was joined to all the others. There were no tonal lacunae, not a hiatus all night. We could hear things which usually we are obliged to seek out by eyes reading the score.”

It is that experience which avant-garde film-maker Hugo Niebeling (b. 1930) preserved for all time in these brilliantly conceived 1971 films of the Third and Seventh Symphonies. In both films, the orchestra is seated in three steeply raked inverted triangles. The shape is that of an Ancient Greek theatre, the files of seats rising steeply up the hillside from the circular orchestra below, and as baleful discords blaze out at the climax of the Eroica Symphony’s first movement development, the camera cuts to the bells of the trumpets lit from behind by a fierce blaze of light.

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