Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Herbert von Karajan — Ludwig van Beethoven — Symphonies 1st & 2nd — 1963


   The full cycle of Ludwig van Beethoven’s nine symphonies is one of highest achievements in the history of music, especially in orchestral music and in symphonic form. Considering the role of these symphonies play in the history of music, it’s needless to say, this is mandatory set of works in artistic development of every orchestra. The same applies to conductor. Performances of Beethoven’s symphonies usually reveal what the real possibilities of an orchestra and conductor are. Whatever we can say about different esthetic attitudes, perfect symphonic form, augmented with rich musical semantics and emotional content, these works always disclose real quality of musical art. Unprofessional orchestra can successfully play Symphony No. 1, maybe even Symphony No. 2, but there is no amateur band which is able to play the whole cycle. In opposite to this, best orchestras have no problem with performing symphonies, they are able to embody any particular vision of Beethoven’s music.
   Berliner Philharmoniker took position in the forefront of best symphony orchestras in the world. The band is sometimes called Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), but its original German name is brand perfectly known for any educated person in the world. One of qualities of their sound is its flexibility and instant reaction for conductor’s gesture. This orchestra is perfect instrument and can change the way it sounds for any need. No wonder it embodies interpretative elements on every level of performing skills and always sounds as a continuation of conductor’s idea. This quality makes Berliner Philharmoniker just a perfect band performing and recording Ludwig van Beethoven’s music.

Herbert von Karajan — Beethoven — Symphonies 1st & 2nd (1963)

   The 1963 edition of Deutsche Grammophone Gesellschaft was the first time Herbert von Karajan recorded complete set of Beethoven’s symphonies with Berliner Philharmoniker. For many reasons this performance is the best one. For 55 years old Karajan this was critical point of his career. He already achieved all conductor can, he was recognized as great artist, he had recorded whole basic symphonic repertoire, he was working successfully with almost every significant orchestra in the world. For some reasons he was willing to be the best one, while he was still one of best only. Recording in 1963, 1977 and 1984 next sets of Beethoven’s symphonies he was aiming to reach the position of absolute leader of symphonic music. And the fact is no other part of musical tradition can equal the cycle of Beethoven’s nine symphonies.
   All four Karajan’s visions of Beethoven’s cycle were complementary, every symphony took its place in the sequence set as it was marking episodes in output of revolutionary composer. And Karajan was always tending to show this quality as a feature. In 1963 edition symphonies are rendered with separate plans using the possibilities of recording technique. Selective sound of every group makes whole orchestra sound in multidimensional sound space. And oppositions of orchestral sections are clear and energetic. Especially for the first two of symphonies this rendition is original, probably most unusual of Karajan’s interpretations. First two symphonies he shows in more sustained interpretations then these compositions are usually shown. Every element is consequently planned and executed. This way early Beethoven’s symphonies sound even more dramatic and emotional. These renditions reveal new possibilities of interpreting Beethoven’s works. Five stars for the record.

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