Karajan 1970s

In General, Music, video by John3 Comments

Over the past couple of years I’ve become a fan of large box sets of classical music. It began with The Decca Sound, and I published a post about it on 30 December 2011. Since then I’ve bought many other box sets and have published posts about several of them. One of the sets I bought last year, but did not publish a post about at the time, was Karajan 1960s. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% convinced to order the set, but one day last  year I saw it in stock at Readings in Malvern, and that was the end of all my hesitation!

Deutsche Grammophon has a superb webpage HERE featuring the covers of all the CDs in the box set, together with two ways of playing an extract from each CD.  One way is to click on any CD cover and it will open up with a large image of the cover and at the bottom of it there is a player with the name of the track it will play an excerpt from.  The other way is to use the player on the webpage and it will play nonstop an extract from each CD.  You can simply click on the Play button, or you can use the previous and next links to repeat or skip excerpts.  An alternative DG webpage is HERE where you can see all the CDs listed and all their tracks, with recording details if you click on a track name, and can choose to listen to excerpts from many tracks.

I was so impressed by Karajan 1960s that later in the year I ordered Karajan – The Complete EMI Recordings 1946-1984 -Vol.2 – Opera & Vocal.   This is an EMI set and I can’t find a webpage similar to the DG one above.  However, AllMusic has a page HERE listing all the CDs and tracks, and you can listen to an excerpt from any track.

At this point I should perhaps explain, for any readers who are not sure, who Karajan was.  He was an Austrian orchestra and opera conductor. To the wider world he was perhaps most famously associated with the Berlin Philharmonic, of which he was principal conductor for 35 years.  Born: April 5, 1908, Salzburg, Austria  –  Died: July 16, 1989, Anif, Austria.

Amazon.co.uk has this to say about his ancestry:

Herbert von Karajan was born in Salzburg on 5 April 1908.  The Karajan family originally came from Macedonia in Northern Greece and bore the name Karajannis.  Herbert von Karajan’s great-great-grand¬father emigrated to Saxony but eventually settled as a merchant in Vienna.  For his services in the furtherance of trade and industry, Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony, raised him to the nobility on 1 June 1792 (hence the “von” in his name). As knights of the Holy Roman Empire, the Karajannis family henceforth called themselves “Karajan”

Karajan was not appreciated by all, both for musical and other reasons.  But I don’t think you will ever come across an article like the one HERE by Norman Lebrecht.  I include it only because, although it is so very nasty and bitchy, it clearly shows that not everyone is a fan of the recordings conducted by Karajan.

That said, I have been a fan of Deutsche Grammophon recordings since the late 1960’s, including those conducted by Herbert von Karajan.  This is not to say that I don’t often prefer recordings of a work by different conductors and orchestras, but I’ve always found that von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is at least reliable to produce a superb recording.

So when Karajan 1970s was released last month, I didn’t hesitate to order it.

I ordered the box set on Thursday, 1 August 2013 and it arrived on my doorstep on Friday, 9 August 2013.  And what a big carton it came in.  It was almost as wide as the top of my clothes dryer, as you can see below.

Karajan-Amazon-box 608

When I opened the carton I expected to find hundreds of small polyester pieces, or perhaps lots of plastic bubbles, but instead it had one length of screwed up brown paper.  The paper looked like recycled paper, and was about 35cm or 14 inches wide, and was perhaps 30 metres long.  I didn’t measure it.  But the paper has come in very handy for wrapping garbage and bottles to put in the rubbish bin.

Once I removed all the brown paper padding I came to the box set.

Karajan-box 608

The above photo shows one view of the box.  The rear view is shown below.

Karajan-box-details 608

The above photos were taken with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and for the first time time in my blogs with my old Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS lens.  I haven’t used this lens for years, as its photos did nothing for me, but perhaps I may have underestimated it.

Below is one the photo setup with two flash units that I tried.  The exposure is dark because I have included the flash units actually flashing in the photo.  When I tried to lighten the photo in Photoshop the two CD covers became washed out.

Karajan-setup-all-608

After trying a number of lighting setups, I finally settled on one that I used to take the photo below.

Karajan-70s-opened-608

 

 

 

 

Now some tracks from several Karajan 1970s CDs.   I will show the sleeve covers first.

Karajan 1970s St Matthew

 

The first is the last track of St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach. The complete work takes up 3 CDs in the box set.

Bach-St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 – Wir Setzen Uns Mit Tranen Nieder

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Karajan 1970s CD30

I first heard Transfigured Night by Arnold Schoenberg  in my late 20’s when I was living in a one-bedroom flat in Plympton in Adelaide.  I’ll explain more about this in my next post.  Suffice to say that the work impressed me enormously at the time, as ravishingly beautiful and exquisite.  But I’ve never played it since then.  When I saw it was in the new box set it revived many nostalgic and happy memories from my youth, and was thus a big influence in my ordering the box set.

Schoenberg-Verklarte Nacht-Sehr Ruhig

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Karajan 1970s Orff

One of my favourite works from the 1970s was Carmina Burana by Carl Orff.  I thought it was a brilliant and extraordinary work with its grand orchestral and choral pieces, intermixed with some quaint pieces.  If you are not familiar with the work you can listen to extracts from all the tracks of various versions in iTunes, and on Amazon and other music sites.  But I’m sure you have often heard parts of the work in TV commercials.  It’s very popular with advertising people.  And rightly so.

Carmina Burana is such an impressive work, with moments of such exquisite beauty, and grandeur, that it’s tempting to think that other works by Carl Orff might have the same endearing qualities.

However, not so to my ears with De Temporum Fine Comoedia.  It seems that the recording of it included in the box set is the only recording ever made of this work.   And arguably (write I with a grin) it is one recording too many.

Orff_ De Temporum Fine Comoedia – Cho Neuso Gar Hapanta Kai

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Orff_ De Temporum Fine Comoedia – Upote Maepote

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Karajan 1970s Marches

This double album in the box set is  for me a fun recording.  It has nostalgic memories of several LP recordings I bought in the 1970s from John Stagg at his record shop in the Regent Arcade of Rundle Mall in Adelaide.  I love the sounds and German pomp in these recordings.

Moltke_ Des Grossen Kurfursten Reitermarsch

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Piefke_ Koniggratzer Marsch

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Karajan 1970s Anthems

Finally, the audio files that worked from the start.  They didn’t have any diacritics or other European language symbols in their file names.

I chose the two Denmark anthems because of Australia’s connection to the Danish Royal Family.  Prince Frederik, the Crown Prince of Denmark, met Mary Donaldson (an Australian) when he was attending the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.  They married on 14 May 2004 at Copenhagen Cathedral in 2004.  The whole event was broadcast live on Australian TV.  And of course articles about Princess Mary are regularly featured in women’s magazines.  Princess Mary and Prince Frederik are the couple on the left in the photo below.

Herbert Von Karajan_ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Karajan 70 13 – 05 Anthem – Denmark

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kongefamilien-alle

Herbert Von Karajan_ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Karajan 70 13 – 20 Anthem – Denmark (Royal Anthem

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And finally, another reason I decided to buy the box set was the following track.  The National Anthem I grew up with is here played by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Herbert von Karajan.  In the days before television and when I lived in Mt Gambier, I used to go to the pictures a couple of times a week.  God Save the Queen was played at the beginning of the evening before the pictures began, and the whole audience stood for for the anthem.  The image of the Queen screened while the anthem played was often the one with the Queen wearing Guards uniform.

The Queen on horse

Herbert Von Karajan_ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Karajan 70 13 – 18 Anthem – United Kingdom

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As with the Karajan 1960s box set Deutsche Grammophon has two web pages proving detailed information about the Karajan 1970s set.

The page HERE shows the covers of all the CDs in the box set.  If you click on any CD cover it will open with a larger image of the cover together with a play button for a sample track.  There is also  player on the webpage that will play samples from the CDs.  The player has buttons for previous, play, next, repeat and shuffle.

The other page HERE lists all the CDs and their tracks, with recording details if you click on a track name.  Each track has a play arrow if you wish to an excerpt from the track.  The time shown for each track is the length of the track, not the length of the extract.

By the way, the Quick Search feature near the top of the Deutsche Grammophon pages is for their whole website.  If you want to search to find a particle work or track on a page, use your browser’s search facility – Ctrl F.

 

Comments

  1. Nice website John and an interesting read. Liked the Karajan 1970s and Nabucco posts. Have you not been tempted to post your views and images of the companion set – Karajan 1960s?

    All the best to you and keep up the good work!

    Richard

  2. Appreciate the look inside the 1970s box. I’m an absolute newcomer to HvK; Deutsche Grammophon maintain a curators page for their catalogue on Apple Music, with DG curated playlists by era, by composer etc. Just about every track that grabbed me and made me stop to listen closer was conducted by HvK. One or two compilation albums later (Karajan Gold) and I’m starting to seek out individual works/albums on DG by HvK.

    Despite being a streaming/digital download customer first and foremost, the decade box sets (1960s, 1970s etc) look to be comprehensive and extremely well produced. Did you find the included book to be particularly informative, well produced etc?

    And also appreciate your spotlighting selected individual discs – the set is available as 3/4 separate albums on iTunes & Apple Music. I’ll make time to listen to the albums/discs you highlighted, mostly to expand my HvK listening but also as a sort of audition/evaluation with a view to picking up the physical box set itself.

    Whilst looking for reviews/overviews of the set itself, many reviewers spend entirely too much time on their assessment of HvK himself and his reputation and history, with only a few words on the music, the presentation and the set itself. Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts on the set itself!

    1. Author

      Hi Ben,

      Thank you very much for your comments. The books with the sets are well produced and contain more information than I care to read.

      As you have found, iTunes is a very good way of auctioning disks you might be interested in. These days I rarely buy a CD without previewing the whole disk (with the link at the bottom of the track list) at least once, even if I’m doing something else. This often tells me that a disk in which I liked short excerpts of individual tracks, was not to my liking when I heard 1’30” excerpts of the whole recording. Sometimes about 7 tracks is enough to put me off. I do most of my first listening of CDs on https://www.prestomusic.com a record shop in part of London. Apart from classical music they also have jazz, books and sheet music. For me, they only show prices in Australian dollars including the 10% GST (tax). Amazon.com no longer sells to Australian addresses because the hassle of GST.

      Some of the great recordings are from the 1960s and one I recommend you checkout is listed here. I think this recording stands above all others even today, for the way the cellist and orchestra blend in what I call a syrupy way. I’ve heard recent SACD/hi-res recordings and while they have great clarity of sound, they don’t have the sound of Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

      Regards
      John

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