Karajan: Schubert No. 8 "Unfinished" + Haydn No. 104 "London" - Electrola C 065-02 643
Jacket NM / LP NM / German pressing
This handsome LP – a fine collector’s copy – from Electrola (C 065-02 643, German pressing, dog-in-stamp label, stereo) features Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s supremely eloquent accounts of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in D Major Hob. I:104 “London” and Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor D. 759 “Unfinished”.
Produced by Michael Glotz and engineered by Wolfgang Gülich, this recording was made at the Philharmonie, Berlin in January 1975.
Wrote the critic T.H. in his September 1976 review for The Gramophone: “It is always easy to imagine what one may think of performances before one has heard a note of them; which doesn't matter as long as one is ready for a change of mind if they turn Out differently. I was doubtful whether I should enjoy Karajan in Haydn but thought I should find him more at home in the Unfinished The reverse turned out to be the case and I think his performance of No. 104 outshines even his splendid earlier version with the VPO (now on Decca Ace of Diamonds). It is 'big band' Haydn but the precision he can get from his own orchestra, its absolute unity of style and utterance, compels the utmost admiration. Besides. the "London" symphonies arc in themselves big enough for a large body of strings to be employed. There is no lack of robustness (which one sometimes deplores in Karajan's Haydn and Mozart), speeds seem to me to be absolutely just. The Minuet does go swiftly but it is, after all, marked allegro; and one can hardly complain of the speed of the finale when the playing is alternately of such delicacy and strength.
“Jochum, too, likes fast tempi for his Haydn and his DG performance is of much distinction, with the LPO playing with great skill. It is mainly the recording which makes me prefer Karajan, for whom HMV get greater clarity. As EG remarked, there is rather too much reverberation in the Jochum and the clarity of definition in the tuttis suffers. But I would not make too much of this, especially as the coupling, Haydn's No. 103, will strike most readers as more apt. For what it is worth I must record that Karajan does not observe the first movement exposition repeat. He made it in his earlier version, as also does Jochum.
“The Unfinished is, of course, also superbly played but I don't like the interpretation. It suffers from two defects. The first is typical of many Karajan/BPO recordings—strings sometimes so remotely soft that you can hardly hear them. The opening cellos and basses are soft, yet clearly defined but when the violins start the accompaniment to the wind melody they are practically inaudible. This very extreme soft playing recurs at the start of the development section (which of course enables Karajan to play it most dramatically and with the greatest range of dynamics). The cello second subject is also played, I should guess, with half a hair of the bow on the string. I know it is marked to be played very softly and not in a richly romantic sort of way (such as we used to hear); but need it be so completely withdrawn as this?
“But the thing I found tedious was the very slow tempo for the second movement. Making some sort of contrast between the two movements is always a problem and if a conductor takes the first movement expansively, as Karajan does, it is the more necessary to observe the con mob o addition to Schubert's marking of andante. The playing, I need hardly say, is of the utmost refinement; but even so this lovely music wants more movement.
“Jochum on DG (with Mozart's Jupiter) conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra gets a splendid performance and recording, with faster tempi in both movements. Bohm, also on DG (with Schubert's No. 5), is also admirable and it is he who makes the greatest contrast between the two movements, taking the first rather deliberately and letting the second sing its glorious tunes quite swiftly.”
The liner notes on the reverse side of the jacket, provided in both German and English, are by To Burg.
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is near-MINT. There is a very slight bit of edgewear and some extremely minor instances of creasing, but that is all. Otherwise, the album appears almost as new. There are no bends, seamsplits, owners’ markings, or other defects, and the album remains solid, bright, glossy, and very attractive – overall, a truly fine collector's copy.
The condition of the LP itself is near-MINT and the playback is outstanding – overall, a truly fine collector's copy.