Are we having fun yet? No. Is the Berlin Philharmonic having fun yet? No. Is Herbert von Karajan having fun yet? If pulling the wings off butterflies is fun, then yes, Karajan is having fun. But do we have to listen to it?
In this collection called Famous Overtures, Karajan and the Berlin romp through 19 of the most famous and most enjoyable overtures in the repertoire. And in nearly every one, Karajan drains all the enjoyment out of the music, leaving only a very, very beautifully played shell in its place. Rossini's La gazza ladra? A bloated bore. Strauss' Die Fledermaus? Shallow and superficial. Rossini's Guillaume Tell? Big, bigger, biggest. Wagner's Parsifal? Dumb, dumber, and dumbest. Suppé's Leichte Kavallerie? Thick and heavy. Mendelssohn's The Hebrides? Thick and greasy. Mozart's Die Zauberflöte? Thick and smarmy. And on and on and on. The Berlin plays like the world's greatest virtuoso orchestra, DG's sound is as good as it gets, and Karajan's conducting is wholly efficient, wholly oblivious, and no fun at all.