Solid gold Karajan
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 02/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even with strong new contenders by Bychkov and Thielemann in great sound, this retains the heavyweight title and continues to be the mountaintop of Ein Heldenlebens from the stereo era -- the Karajan 100 percent gold version with Berlin Philharmonic from 1975. A near 100 percent improvement over his youthful DG recording from 1959, this gains from the master German's years of experience and was recorded before his work began to decline in the 1980s. The reading represents Karajan at the pinnacle of his career and is contemporaneous with his other titanic CDs including the Vienna Philharmonic Bruckner 8th Symphony, the Shostakovich 10th Symphony and his near definitive readings of the Mahler Symphonies 6 and 9. In this the Berlin Philharmonic plays its heart out for him, pouring extraordinary schmaltz into "The Hero's works of peace" in high contrast to the preceding manic yet controlled "Hero's deeds in battle". If you wonder why Karajan is still considered one of the best interpreters of core German repertoire in 2004, 15 years after his death, listen to this performance and understand. While Karajan did not have a personal relationship with this composer like that of Karl Bohm, his years of interpreting Strauss's multicolored orchestral canvasses merged dramatically with the perfection he deveoped in, and demanded from, his Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. This recording is to modern ears what Karajan's 1974 Berlin reading of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is to that opus: the best version extant."