STRAUSS Metamorphosen; Tod und Verklärung – Karajan
Karajan's pioneering record with the VPO made in 1947 has only recently been reissued (HMV mono RLS7714, 3/83) and his first account of Tod und Verklarung with the Philharmonia Orchestra, recorded in 1953 and previously unissued, comes in a companion box (RLS7715, 3/83). A year ago DG coupled the two works together in performances with the BPO made in the mid-1970s (DG 2542 164, 3/82) and now follow it with brand new digital recordings. Metamorphosen has something of ''the unbearable intensity'' RO recalled from the 1981 Oxford performance, and has greater emotional urgency and at times a seemingly quicker pulse (the 1971 version ran to 27'30'' as opposed to the 26'11'' of the present issue). The sound is marginally more forward and cleaner though I like the rich ambience of the analogue disc. However, this new account is very gripping and involving, and had I not invested in the earlier disc and came to the choice afresh, it would be the present t issue that I would make for. The new Tod und Verklarung is not so spectacularly recorded as Dorati's brightly-lit Detroit account (Decca digital SXDL7523, 4/82) nor so naturally spacious and atmospheric as Tennstedt's new record with the LPO (HMV digital ASD4182, 2/83) but it is a greater performance that either, and to my mind finer than any of Karajan's earlier versions. Indeed, I found it quite electrifying with superb playing from all departments and a life-and-death intensity to the climaxes. It is more vividly recorded than last time round and, as I have indicated, the performance is tauter (25'23'' against 27'00'' in 1974) and more powerful. In both works, it would be difficult to improve on these performances by the greatest Richard Strauss conductor of the day and the glorious BPO, and the quality of the recording gives no cause for reproach. A clear first-choice in both works.'