BRUCKNER Symphony No 7 – Karajan
Three years have elapsed since Decca reissued these two Bohm recordings in their mid-price Ovation series (3/93). Now you can have both recordings for the price of one. The 1973 Bruckner Fourth is a classic, widely praised and much reissued, but the 1970 recording of the Third Symphony (the tidied-up 1889 edition) is every bit as fine: another superb recording matched by more wonderful playing by the Vienna Philharmonic, sophisticated and folksy by turns.
The Vienna Philharmonic also feature on what was Karajan’s last recording, an equally idiomatic account of the Seventh Symphony, lighter and more classical in feel than either of Karajan’s two Berlin recordings yet loftier, too. When Abbado’s in many ways very fine Vienna Philharmonic recording was released a couple of years ago (DG, 5/94), I noted, “With Karajan we appear to have clambered to a higher track where the footing is as firm, yet where the views are even more breathtakingly complete”. As for the new Original-image bit-processing you need go no further than the first fluttered violin tremolando and the cellos’ rapt entry in the third bar to realize how ravishingly ‘present’ the performance is in this new reprocessing. Or go to the end of the symphony and hear how the great E major peroration is even more transparent than before, the octave drop of bass trombone and bass tuba 13 bars from home the kind of delightfully euphoric detail that in 1989 only the more assiduous score-reader would have been conscious of hearing.
If the remastered Bruckner Seventh is pure gold, I hear no such significant transformation in the case of the remastering, for the mid-price Galleria series, of Karajan’s 1979 Berlin recording of the Sixth Symphony; though disc for disc, the latest CD pressing does offer a clearer, smoother image. As for the performance, Karajan may have delighted Robert Simpson by setting a well-nigh perfect tempo for the symphony’s elusive finale, but as Simpson says he “unfortunately shows an uncharacteristic want of patience in the first three movements”. You could do worse than Karajan in the Sixth, but Klemperer remains a clear first choice.'