Karajan conducts Debussy and Ravel/DG 180g Vinyl Reissue

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This record is famous for its superlative Berliner Philharmoniker performances and Karajan’s sophisticated interpretations more than its DG house sound sonics. It’s earned its reputation well over the years, but sadly for audiophiles, the sound doesn’t improve on this DG 180g vinyl reissue. 

Unlike the four Kleiber DG reissues reviewed recently in Audiophilia, where the DG remastering managed to salvage slightly better instrumental timbre and a smidgen of the glorious acoustic of Vienna’s Musikverein, we get no such luck here in Berlin. 

The sound is unflattering throughout with compression at the loudest dynamics and a general lack of sparkle. Otto Gerdes (producer) and Günter Hermanns (engineer), the legendary team that recorded lots of 60s DGs, missed the mark, here. Maybe it was Karajan’s influence? He had an odd sense of ‘natural’ recorded sound considering he produced a uniformly beautiful one live with his orchestra.

I love quality vinyl reissues. Many of the DGs, though, are handcuffed from the start because of the original sound. This one doesn’t escape the murk. What a shame, as you will not find better performances anywhere.

Karajan’s Prélude À L'Après-Midi D'Un Faune is as languorous as you’d ever need — the faun lazing in the warm sun. The orchestral playing is fabulous. The real star on this recording and why it was made was to feature Karajan’s magnificent principal flute Karlheinz Zöller. A superstar flutist and longtime orchestra member. He has few peers in this repertoire. 

Herbert von Karajan accompanying his superstar principal flute from the 60s and 70s, Karlheinz Zöller, soloist on much of this Debussy/Ravel vinyl reissue. 

Herbert von Karajan accompanying his superstar principal flute from the 60s and 70s, Karlheinz Zöller, soloist on much of this Debussy/Ravel vinyl reissue. 

To hear the recording at its best, turn up the volume. At least you’ll hear orchestral playing as good as it gets if not warm soundstage and inner detail.

Zöller features once again in Daphnis Suite No. 2. He plays Daphnis playing Pan wooing Syrinx with the most gorgeous phrasing. It’s our most famous solo and Zöller plays it for all its worth. The naughty bits, the big rush down from piccolo, Ist flute, 2nd flute to alto flute is exceptionally ‘climactic’. Of course, the rest of the orchestra figure brilliantly in Ravel’s masterpiece. 

Karajan’s interpretations are mainstream but wring all the sex out of the scores. If you can forgive the recording, it’s a must have for the legendary performances. However, most audiophiles I know are not that forgiving. 

Tracklist

«La Mer»: Trois Esquisses Symphoniques

«Daphnis Et Chloé» Suite N° 2

«Prélude À L'Après-Midi D'Un Faune»