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Karajan Festival (5CD)

I buy Herbert Von Karajan’s work with the Berlin Philharmonic every chance I get – it never fails to amaze. The beauty and power, the strength and tenderness this pairing always created makes them sure winners every time.

This 5CD boxed set has taken me ages to get through, but it was all so worth it. There’s something edifying and fulfilling in these works, something that made me want to start over as soon as I’d finished.

Brilliance.

 

 

CD1
Johannes Brahms – Hungarian Dances No. 1,3,5,6,17-20
Alexander Borodin – Prince Igor
Alexander Borodin – Dance Of The Polovtsian Maidens
Peter Tschaikovsky – Polonaise & Waltz
Bedrich Smetana – The Bartered Bride
Bedrich Smetana – Dance Of The Comedians

CD2
Edvard Grieg – Peer Gynt (Suite no.1 and no.2)
Jean Sibelius – Finlandia
Jean Sibelius – Valse Triste
Jean Sibelius –  Tapiola

CD3
Maurice Ravel – Bolero
Maurice Ravel – Daphnis Et Chloé Suite no.2
Claude Debussy – La Mer
Claude Debussy – Prélude À L’Après-midi
Claude Debussy – D’un Faune

CD4
Gioacchino Rossini – Overtures:
– Il Barbiere Di Siviglia
– L’Italiana In Algeri
– La Gazza Ladra
– La Scala Di Seta

Giuseppe Verdi – Overtures And Preludes
– Nabucco . La Traviata
– Les Vêpres Siciliennes
– Un Ballo In Maschera
– La Forza Del Destino
– Aida

CD5
Bedrich Smetana – Vltava (The Moldau)
Antonin Dvorak – Scherzo Capriccioso
Franz Liszt – Les Préludes
Hungarian Rhapsody no.4

 

 

 

 

Karajan, My Wayward Son

I’m still working on my next Lebrain Le-Rocks post, as it is competing with another post I’ve almost completed, so we’ll let this little musing stand for this afternoon’s edification…

 

We travelled to my lovely wife’s folks’ place yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner. This is always an awesome thing involving much family, food, and fun.

It was a beautiful day, crisp and clear fall air and bright sunshine making the changing tree leaves glow. Plus, our surrounding landscape for the trip is beautiful from start to finish. Perfect day, I thought, for a little bit of classical music for the drive south.

I selected my 2CD set of Herbert Von Karajan called The Legend, a compilation of tracks by varying composers. I was thinking, quite rightly, that this would be a brilliant companion on the drive. Added bonus: classical music is very good for your mind, and I’m all for boosting our kids’ already burgeoning creativites.

Anyway, we got rolling down the highway and I plugged in the first disc. Ah, Ravel’s Boléro. That lilting eastern European melody line, that martial snare drum. A lovely way to drift through the day… Except it wasn’t. The dynamics of the recording are fine, of course, but the quiet bits are really quiet, and the loud bits are just about right for highway driving.

Honestly, my lovely wife’s Subaru is a fantastic car. It handles like a dream, gives great gas mileage, and is as reliable as any car could ever be. But, as it turns out, it has quite a bit of interior cabin noise on the highway, which I’d never noticed before, so we only heard about half of this first track. I turned it up, but as the track built up in volume I had to keep turning it down again. And again. Then back up again for a quiet bit…

Needless to say, by the time the second track, Debussy’s Prélude À L’Après-Midi D’Un Faune rolled around, I was shutting the damn thing off. It was too distracting to have to adjust the volume all the time. My lovely wife’s car on the highway, as it turns out, is built for rock and roll, or anything other than classical that stays within a more narrow, louder range of volume.

Classical did not turn out to be the relaxing, wonderful thing I was hoping would be on this trip. I blame the Subaru, which is otherwise a completely brilliant vehicle. Shame, too, as I was really looking forward to having this set as a soundtrack to our idyllic drive through escarpment beauty.

 

NB: I’ll be bringing my own Subaru (yes, we own two of them) to Taranna when Mike and I go on our annual record shoppe raid, so we’ll see if it has the same interior noise problem. I don’t recall any such issue at highway speeds, but we’ll find out!

* For those who are interested, I have already covered this Von Karajan set here.

Herbert Von Karajan – The Legend

I got this 2CD set out of a cut-out bin at our local shite HMV for $3. As it is a digipak, they only scratched across the barcode on the back (instead of cutting the spine), but whomever’s job it was to do this copy they sure did a lazy job of it. I can barely see the scratch. So that means I basically got a brand new set for $3! Sweet!

I have well-known rants about the pretentiousness of conductors, which don’t necessarily require great length here. It’s just that (very often) they didn’t write the music, they’re making sure other people play it properly, so where do they get off all high and mighty? This should be the Berliner Philharmoniker – The Legend. Anyway. I know the conductor is interpreting the music – but only in so far as the original allows. Karajan is a big name conductor, so he gets his big name, and in the biggest letters, on the cover. Nice work if you can get it.

But man I loved this set, though. It’s a really great mix of tunes (see track lists, below), and very, very ably played. The sound quality is excellent – I liked that I could hear the hiss when I had the good headphones on, makes me think it’s a vinyl not a CD! [NB. I know this is because these are old recordings so the transfer would bring with it a little noise – and I like that!]

I put this on and just drifted away on it. Classical music sends my brain in all sorts of directions, even ones it wouldn’t necessarily go. I’ve read several studies and articles online suggesting that classical music is very good for your brain, and I believe it.

There was only one review of this on Amazon (I went looking to see what the ‘experts’ had to say about this… and to copy the track list so I didn’t need to re-type it all) and this person said the set would be good for neophytes, but then nit-picked that they chose wrong versions of songs – apparently many of these songs were recorded more than once. Good on that person for knowing the difference between recordings, but to me these sound great! If there are better ones out there, then that leaves me more to explore!

An excellent set – should have been waaay more than $3!

Track List:

Disc: 1

1. Ravel: Bolero
2. Debussy: Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune
3. Chabrier: Espana, Rhapsody for Orchestra
4. Tchaikovsky: Symphony #6 in B Minor, Op. 74 ‘Pathetique’ – II. Allegro con grazia
5. Bizet: L’Arlesienne Suite #2 – I. Pastorale
6. Bizet: L’Arlesienne Suite #2 – II. Intermezzo
7. Bizet: L’Arlesienne Suite #2 – III. Menuet
8. Bizet: L’Arlesienne Suite #2 – IV. Farandole
9. Puccini: Manon Lescaut – Intermezzo
10. Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus Overture

Disc: 2

1. Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust – Marche hongroise
2. Weber: Der Freischutz – Overture
3. Schubert: Symphony #8 in B Minor, D759 – I. Allegro moderato
4. Mozart: Symphony #40 in G Minor, K550 – I. Allegro molto
5. Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander – Overture
6. Smetana: Ma Vlast – Vltava
7. Sibelius: Valse Triste, Op. 44
8. Johann Strauss II: Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Op. 214
9. Dvorak: Symphony #9 in E Minor, Op. 95 ‘From the New World’ – IV. Allegro con fuoco

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