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.
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.
The above photo shows one view of the box. The rear view is shown below.
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.
After trying a number of lighting setups, I finally settled on one that I used to take the photo below.
Now some tracks from several Karajan 1970s CDs. I will show the sleeve covers first.
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
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
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
Orff_ De Temporum Fine Comoedia – Upote Maepote
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
Piefke_ Koniggratzer Marsch
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
Herbert Von Karajan_ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Karajan 70 13 – 20 Anthem – Denmark (Royal Anthem
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.
Herbert Von Karajan_ Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Karajan 70 13 – 18 Anthem – United Kingdom
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.