Herbert von Karajan BEETHOVEN

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LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

Anne-Sophie Mutter
Christoph Eschenbach
Alexis Weissenberg
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan a.o.
Int. Release 01 Nov. 2011
13 CDs / Download
0289 477 9830 9 13 CDs
ADD/DDD GB13


Track List

CD 1: Beethoven: Symphonies No.1 in C, Op.21 & 2 in D, Op.36

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No.1 in C, Op.21

Symphony No.2 in D, Op.36

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 57:39

CD 2: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.3 in E flat, Op.35 "Eroica" & 8 in F, Op.93

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 -"Eroica"

Symphony No.8 in F, Op.93

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:15:00

CD 3: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.4 in B flat, Op.60 & 7 in A, Op.92

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No.4 in B flat, Op.60

Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:04:38

CD 4: Beethoven: Symphonies Nos.5 in C minor, Op.67 & 6 in F, Op.68 "Pastoral"

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op.67

Symphony No.6 in F, Op.68 -"Pastoral"

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:04:46

CD 5: Beethoven: Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125 "Choral"

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Symphony No.9 in D minor, Op.125 - "Choral"

Excerpt from 4th movement

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

4.

Janet Perry, Agnes Baltsa, Vinson Cole, José van Dam, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, Wiener Singverein, Helmut Froschauer

Total Playing Time 1:06:17

CD 6: Beethoven: Overtures

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
The Creatures of Prometheus, Op.43

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 51:51

CD 7: Beethoven: Overtures

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Grosse Fuge in B flat, Op.133

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:07:08

CD 8: Beethoven: Egmont; Wellington's Victory

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Egmont - Complete Incidental Music, Op.84

Gundula Janowitz, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Gundula Janowitz, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Erich Schellow, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Musik zu einem Ritterballett WoO 1 (1790-91)

12.
0:00
2:03

"Gratulations-Menuett" in E flat major for Orchestra WoO 3

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Berlin Philharmonic Wind Ensemble, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:11:16

CD 9: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.1; Triple Concerto Op.56

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, Op.15

2.
0:00
14:01

Christoph Eschenbach, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Cello in C, Op.56

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma, Mark Zeltser, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:18:33

CD 10: Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos.2 & 4

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, Op.19

2.
0:00
10:30

Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58

Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:04:11

CD 11: Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos.3 & 5

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37

Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major Op.73 -"Emperor"

Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:15:57

CD 12: Beethoven: Violin Concerto Op.61

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Violin Concerto In D, Op.61

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 48:20

CD 13: Beethoven: Mass in D, Op.123 "Missa Solemnis"

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)
Mass in D, Op.123 "Missa Solemnis"

1. Kyrie - Assai sostenuto (Mit Andacht)

Lella Cuberli, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, José van Dam, Leon Spierer, David Bell, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, Wiener Singverein

Lella Cuberli, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, José van Dam, Leon Spierer, David Bell, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

2. Gloria - Allegro vivace

Lella Cuberli, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, José van Dam, Leon Spierer, David Bell, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, Wiener Singverein

Lella Cuberli, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, José van Dam, David Bell, Leon Spierer, Wiener Singverein, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Lella Cuberli, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, José van Dam, Leon Spierer, David Bell, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, Wiener Singverein

3. Credo - Allegro ma non troppo

4. Sanctus - Adagio (Mit Andacht)

5. Agnus Dei - Adagio

21.
0:00
3:47

Lella Cuberli, Trudeliese Schmidt, Vinson Cole, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Total Playing Time 1:20:05

Karajan and Beethoven

Herbert von Karajan belonged to the last generation of conductors for whom mastery of Beethoven’s music in general and the nine symphonies in particular was a prerequisite for admission into the pantheon of so-called “great” conductors by a high-minded musical public. Even as late as 1957, at a time when the 49-year-old Karajan’s mastery of an unusually wide-ranging operatic, choral and orchestral repertoire had brought him unprecedented influence and fame, the question continued to be asked, “Ah, yes, but what of his Beethoven?” In 1963 he provided an answer to the question with a set of the nine symphonies – the first to be recorded and marketed as an integral cycle – which remains to this day the most commercially successful cycle of the Nine in the history of the gramophone.

It was in Ulm in 1931 that the 23-year-old Karajan made his debut as a Beethoven conductor. “One listened and was astonished”, reported the local newspaper. The work was the Eroica Symphony, an ambitious undertaking for a small provincial orchestra. Four years later he had a rather better orchestra at his command when as Aachen’s new young Generalmusikdirektor he tackled the Fifth Symphony for the first time. As on old man, he would tell young conductors, “Throw away your first hundred Fifths!” (An amusing idea; in 54 years he himself managed around 90 performances of the work.) Yet we have it on good authority that his own early performances were remarkably assured. In September 1938, he had the temerity to include the symphony (along with Sibelius’s Sixth) in what was only his second concert with the Berlin Philharmonic. Leading Berlin critic Heinrich Strobel was thrilled by the rhythmic power and structural logic of the Beethoven. All that was missing, he suggested, was a stronger sense of the “poetic idea”. Karajan would have read the review and noted its recommendation. After his London debut in 1948, a critic noted: “I came away impressed anew with the beauty and spaciousness of the symphony.”

Karajan first conducted the Ninth Symphony in Aachen in November 1939 and made a highly regarded first recording of it in Vienna in 1947. Writing about the work to his producer Walter Legge, he spoke of “the great difficulty of bringing this enormous conception into the close and condense [sic] form in which it is written”. Karajan was concerned above all with getting the right “tempo modifications” so as to be able to penetrate to the heart of Beethoven’s imaginative vision. He was also concerned by the metronome marks (too fast in the first and third movements, too slow in the last) which appeared to inhibit the realization of what he called the enormous “Steigerung [heightening and intensification] which reaches the stars”. Two years later, he conducted the Ninth in a virtually empty Royal Albert Hall in London. The Times reported: “The ninth symphony is a breath-taking work and this was a breath-taking performance. Mr von Karajan showed that emphasis on the espressivo, primarily musical facets of the work, strengthens the architectural outlines and gives added force to the logical drive of Beethoven’s argument.”

At the time, Karajan’s Beethoven readings stood broadly within a German tradition which could be traced back to Richard Wagner: the Ninth’s earliest and in some ways most visionary “interpreter”. Karajan was aware, however, of the strengths and limitations of the Wagner-derived Romantic school of Beethoven interpretation. Speaking of the Seventh Symphony, he told the present writer, “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 get out of this tradition because of the difficulty of realizing the inner content of the music.”

Karajan’s move towards a more rhythmically compelling Beethoven was influenced less by conductors such as Klemperer and Erich Kleiber who in Berlin in the 1920s had pioneered the “Neue Sachlichkeit” (“new objectivity”) than by Richard Strauss, Karajan’s ultimate role model where conducting was concerned, and the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. Not that imitation was the solution. Conducting, Karajan always insisted, is a trade that you learn. The Handwerk – the “craft” – is all. And no one learned faster. “Karajan’s Seventh is magnificent”, wrote the Record Guide of his 1951 Philharmonia recording, a version more widely admired than any in the early days of LP.

In 1955 Karajan succeeded Furtwängler as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. The visceral power of the Berlin style can be traced back, through the Furtwängler era, to Arthur Nikisch’s time. Karajan’s rebuilding of the orchestra in the late 1950s retained this visceral characteristic while widening the ensemble’s tonal palette and making the playing leaner and even more dynamic. “The playing throughout the evening was truly superb,” wrote the revered English critic Neville Cardus after the Berliners performed the Seventh Symphony in London in 1961, “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.”

Such performances transferred superbly to disc. Yehudi Menuhin said of Karajan: “He worked his interpretations to a fine tilth, aiming at the minimum of sentimentality and the minimum of exaggeration. A recording does not bear hearing more than a few times if you can predict, not the note, but the interpreter’s private twist or change or eccentricity. Karajan wanted a recording that could be heard repeatedly.”

Karajan and the Berliners re-recorded the Nine in 1975-77. The cue for the remake was the advent of quadraphonic sound. The technology never took off but the years 1975–77 proved to be a watershed in another respect. Shortly after work on the new cycle began, Karajan was taken seriously ill with a displaced disc that threatened to sever his spine. Though he would suffer pain and increasing disability for the rest of his life, his recovery was astonishing. Early in 1976 he returned to the Beethoven project with renewed intensity, confounding those who doubted that he retained a passion for such familiar music.

Karajan drew particular attention at the time to the new range, power and refinement of the Berlin sound. In a world where “period performance” was an emergent force, such considera­tions were later dubbed perverse by the movers and shakers of the new order, though it is unlikely that Beethoven himself would have seen it that way. Examination of his sketchbooks reveals how persistently he worked on the fermatas at the start of the Fifth Symphony until they became like tidal barriers holding back a massive onrush of sound.

Where quadrophony failed, digital technology changed the nature of recording. The launch of the compact disc in March 1983 – an innovation personally driven forward by Karajan in collaboration with his friend and ally, Sony’s Akio Morita – was the cue for a third Berlin Beethoven cycle recorded between November 1982 and February 1984. This final cycle was in fact something of a synthesis. In the Fourth Symphony (judged by Karajan to be the most difficult of the Nine to direct) he turned his back on the fleetness of his 1962 recording, bringing the reading back more into the German tradition. In the “Pastoral” Symphony, by contrast, he wrought new sound miracles, conjuring forth a reading which rivalled his legendary 1953 Philharmonia recording in grace and imagination. As Howard Taubman had noted in the New York Times in 1958, “One suspects that [Karajan] could approach Beethoven in different ways and fashion convincing interpretations in several styles.”

This chameleon-like quality in Karajan, along with his peerless skills as an accompanist, ensured an approach to the directing of Beethoven concertos which was very much soloist-led. He made only one complete cycle of piano concertos for the gramophone, music-making of an almost private nature with his friend Alexis Weissenberg. Similarly, his remake of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with three remarkable young musicians, Mark Zeltser, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yo-Yo Ma, was almost certainly more congenial to him than the famous powerhouse recording he conducted in Berlin in 1969 with Richter, Oistrakh and Rostropovich. Mutter had first appeared with Karajan at the 1977 Salzburg Whitsun Festival, a month before her 14th birthday. They recorded the Beethoven concerto together two years later. It is an extraordinarily beautiful reading which sounds in part like a song of thanksgiving from soloist to conductor; the expan­sive tempi, it is said, were set by Mutter herself.

Karajan’s last major Beethoven project was a towering recording of the Missa solemnis. Of his four recorded versions, it is this stoic and too little noticed 1985 account which is the most impressive, not least because, like the work itself, it was fashioned into being by a man struggling with physical infirmity whose vision and will remained dauntless to the last.

Richard Osborne
10/2011