Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan

Brahms, Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3

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Reissued in 2008 as volume four of Deutsche Grammophon's Karajan Master Recordings series, this pairing of Brahms' Second and Third symphonies from the Austrian conductor's early-'60s cycle of the four symphonies with the Berliner Philharmoniker is as beautiful a pair of performances of these often recorded works as has ever been released. The singing tone of the themes, the tensile strength of the lines, the brilliant sheen of the colors, the lush lucidity of the textures, the sculpted warmth of the sonorities, the subtle power of the rhythms, and the elegant inevitability of the structures: these qualities have never before or since been equaled, much less surpassed, in any other recorded performance. Even later Karajan accounts with either the Berliner or the Wiener Philharmonikers didn't surpass them for sheer beauty. Inevitably, the textures grew more lush than lucid, the sonorities turned from sculpted to smooth, and the structures seemed less aesthetically inevitable than egotistically unstoppable. But in these recordings from 1963 and 1964, Karajan and the Berlin musicians assuredly created performances that stand as among the finest of their kind. Digitally remastered, Deutsche Grammophon's stereo sound is still a model of translucence.

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