Classic Karajan: The Essential Collection

August 11, 2014

25 years after his death, Herbert von Karajan's legacy continues.



In many ways, Herbert von Karajan's own story is the story of the Berlin Philharmonic, the modern classical record industry, and the 20th century itself.  Over his musical career, Karajan crafted a sound that was both unmistable and accessible with an orchestra that united a divided Berlin. Classic Karajan: The Essential Collection arranges 32 recordings that combine to capture Karajan's quintessential sound that transcended the tumultuous politics of the mid 20th century.  

Classic Karajan CD cover

Karajan's long-time producer, Andrew Keener, has been quoted saying that between Karajan's recordings created a kind of sound that is a "recognizable art form in itself for the first time." More than just a wildly popular conductor, Karajan's recordings "shaped the aesthetics of classical recording." His did this by tailoring the thick sound he created with the Berlin Philharmonic to his innate and progressive understanding of recording technology which remains, as this contemporary collection proves, impeccable to this day. 

Elsa Schiller, the executive producer of his final collection of Beethoven symphonies noted that Karajan "had a very, very profound sense of pulse, which is what people tend to forget about his work – he had a devastatingly strong rhythmic impulse that was underneath it. And that’s why he was often able to conduct in such a very, very smooth way but yet keep the pulse underneath it." 

That pulse still beats in contemporary classical conducting. Much about the way Karajan's music is produced and recorded has its roots in the depth and breadth of his particular legacy. Karajan's control of timbre and tempo and his extraordinary virtuosity are legendary. While the sheer volume of his work is exceptional, this collection highlights a more thoughtful narrative: many of his most extraordinary recordings feature music from his own war-torn age. Puccini, Strauss, Ravel and Shostakovich are all featured in some of the best performances of their work ever given.

The story of the 20th century is as thick, sweeping, and tumultuous as Karajan's music. This collection highlights music that, like Karajan himself, feels steeped in its own context. The late Werner Thärichen once remarked: ‘I’m absolutely certain that this man was conducting the story of his life." This collection brings fresh new life to that extraordinary story

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For more information and to purchase this recording, visit Deutsche Grammophon.

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