Taped in stereo on 35 mm film, these 1973 films of Herbert von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker performing Brahms' four symphonies are splendid documents of the Austrian conductor and his German orchestra at the apex of their time together. Certainly they knew these cornerstones of the symphonic repertoire by heart. Clearly they loved them without reserve. And surely there have rarely been performances that can match these for musical excellence or sonic beauty. The warmth and depth of the Berlin's playing and the precision and intensity of Karajan's conducting are unsurpassable. Though some might prefer the more conspicuously emotional Bernstein, the more overtly dramatic Solti, or the more stoutly stalwart Böhm in these works, for what they are, Karajan and theBerlin's performances cannot be bettered. In audio and visual terms, these discs likewise cannot be bettered. The sound is rich, deep, and lush with plenty of details and a wonderful sense of time and place. The camera work moves from conductor to soloist to section fluently and logically so that the viewer's attention is gently guided through the performances.
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