"Don't hesitate - this is a bargain the likes of which seldom come along. The Walton Symphony #1 alone is worth the low price. Karajan (along with EMI producer Legge) spent time with Walton in the early 50's, and when Legge asked Karajan to record the Walton, he agreed, but had the nerve to ask Walton to RESCORE the piece! Walton, of course, declined. Karajan went on to perform it as a "work in progress" with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI in December 1953, not bothering to mention this to Walton. This recording is different than any other I've ever heard - maybe Karajan himself did some rescoring! For me, it is a fascinating piece of musical history, not really competition for the Previn recording but still full of vinegar. But wait! There's more! Another priceless gem: the 1953 Philharmonia recording of the Sibelius #4. Sibelius himself, after hearing THIS recording, pronounced Karajan as "the only conductor who understands the Fourth Symphonmy". Woah - take THAT Kajanus and Beecham! Add a wonder Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, very snappy performances of Chabrier bob bons, a great "Pictures at an Exhibition", and still more - how can you resist? Even Karajan detractors will have to admit that this Karajan shines brightly and fiercely - not the legato-bound conductor of the late 70s but high energy and shining genius. Most highly recommended!"
Joseph Reichmann | Los Angeles | 06/16/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is a collection to pass. Poor sound in many spots and lethargic performances in most cases. The bon-bons are dreadful and flat. The Espana has no sparkle. Compared with Beecham or Ormandy...well..there just is no comparison. Pictures at an Exhibition is plain dull. Try Toscanini for this work. The Walton and Sibelius symphonies are the best selections in the set. However, there are many better performances available. Only hard core Karajan fans should consider buying this set. "
Sungu Okan | Istanbul, Istanbul Turkey | 01/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This new published recordings of Karajan are excellent. Except the Wagner recording (made in 70's) all records' dates from 50's and 60's, in other words middle ages of Karajan.
CD 1 starts with Johann Strauss's charming Tritsch-Tratsch Polka with Wiener Philharmoniker made in 1949 but sound quality is very good. And then there is a very interesting document: William Walton - Symphony No. 1 with RAI Orchesra Milan in a live concert and this the only Walton recording of Karajan. Even so it is comparable with Andre Previn's another sucessful version. At this recording Karajan is more wild, angry and his tempos more fast than his last years, may because of his youth. And a gem: Mussorgsky-Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition with Philharmonia Orchestra made in 1955/6 but stereo. And again a wild performance, especially in Baba-Yaga movement, but even so, it is drammatic and poetic like in The Old Castle movement. It is really "must-have" recording for admirers of this masterwork.
CD 2 begins with a famous and charming waltz: Waldteufel and Les Patineurs waltz, with Philharmonia. And then the most heavy work on entire recordings: Sibelius' Symphony No. 4 in A minor with Philharmonia made in 1953 monarual. This recording of 4th is one of the best versions ever made. Even so, Sibelius was listened this recording (he dead in 1957) and he declare Karajan to be "a great master". "Especially, his atristic line and the inner beauty of the interpretation have deeply impressed me". And then, one of the most romantic moments of the whole opera history: Wagner's Liebestod from Tristan with Helga Dernesch, who really really sung with emotion, very imressive and with Berliner Philharmonker. This work, especially at the last moments makes you will be weeping... And later, all of these records with Philharmonia Orchestra made in 1960. First, there is a brilliant work: Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody (with sucessful orch. by Franz Doppler). And then, one of Karajan's most favourite encore pieces: Jaromir Weinberger's Polka form the opera "Svanda the Bagpiper". This is really brilliant and charming music. And then, the French romantic composer E. Chabrier's most famous works: Espana (rhapsody) and Joyeuse March. These works recorded lovely. And the last piece is a very romantic piece: Offenbach's Barcarolle form "Les Contes de Hoffmann". Still Karajan is really good at like this slow and romantic pieces.
In other words: at this price this is a must-have recording for all Karajan admirers and classical music lovers. Highly recommended."
For most Americans, a forgotten Karajan phase
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 10/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After the end of World War II Karajan had to wait for Furtwangler to die before he could ascend to prominence in Germany again, thanks to the older maestro's obsessive anxiety and jealousy. Furtwangler unexpectedly died in 1954, and when Karajan took his place at the head of the Berlin Phil., his major career, so far as most Americans are concerned, began.
But HvK hadn't been biding his time. We tned to forget the decade, beginning in 1947, when Karajan devoted himself primarily to the Philharmonia Orch. in London and made many recordings for EMI, mostly in mono, with them. This 2-CD set in the Great Conductors series focuses largely on the post-war era.
CD 1 begins with a Trisch-Tratsch Polka from Vienna with the Philharmonic in 1949, a nice bon bon. The Walton Sym. #1 is in limited, boxy mono sound from 1953. Karajan performed quite a lot with the Rome orchestra of the Italian Radio service at that time (we also have a Magic Flute in Italian with Schwarzkopf and an Oedipus Rex on various semi-pirate labels), and they perform well enough. This CD ends with a rather pointless Pictures at an Exhibition in early stereo (1955) with the Philharmonia--I can't imagine why anyone would bother with it considering Karajan's magnificent Berlin recording.
CD 2 features a mono reading of the Sibelius Fourth with the Philharmonia (1954), another work that Karajan remade in stereo with the Berlin Phil., and again I imagine only diehard collectors need both. The rest of the CD is filed out with pops material from Offenbach, Weinberger, Liszt, chabrier, and Waldteufel, all with the Philharmonia. Karajan was excellent in light fare throughout his career; these readings are especially fresh and energetic. CD 2 ends with a Tristan Prelude and Liebestod from 1971 with the excellent Helga Dernesch as Isolde. Since he recorded the complete opera with her at that same exact time (December), I imagine this performance is spun off from those sessions.
None of this material comes form DG, and except for the Walton, collectors of Karajan recordings will probably have everything else in earlier EMI reissues, so this set's appeal may be limited to those who want a first acquaintance with the relatively young Karajan before he became a power in Berlin."