Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan

Karajan Conducts Grieg & Sibelius

(CD - Deutsche Grammophon #000005402)

Review by

No one would deny the beauties of these performances, but no one would assert that these are much more than beautiful performances. Recorded between 1964 and 1982, these are some of the most ravishingly beautiful performances of orchestral favorites by Grieg and Sibelius ever preserved on disc. The splendors of the Berlin Philharmonic are unsurpassed: the richness of the strings, the colors of the winds, the strength and subtlety of the brass, the clarity and power of the percussion. And Karajan's control of the Berlin is unequaled: his legato is perfectly smooth, his textures are perfectly clear, his rhythms are perfectly steady, his dynamics are perfectly managed. But as beautiful as these performances are -- and in Deutsche Grammophon's 2003 remasterings, they have never sounded more beautiful -- there is still nothing much else in these performances but beauty. Any sense of exhilaration in the outer movements of the Holberg Suite, any sense of mystery in Anitra's Dance, any sense of sorrow in Solveig's Song, any sense of the spiritual in the Andante religioso, any sense of grief in the Valse triste, any sense of terror in Tapiola, or in other words, any sense of anything more than a superlative orchestra and conductor performing virtuoso orchestral music at the peak of their abilities is almost completely lacking.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Peer Gynt Suite for orchestra (or piano or piano, 4 hands) No. 1, Op. 46
1 04:01 Amazon
2 04:49 Amazon
3 03:46 Amazon
4 02:12 Amazon
Peer Gynt Suite for orchestra (or piano or piano, 4 hands) No. 2, Op. 55
5 04:57 Amazon
6 04:41 Amazon
7 02:45 Amazon
8 06:26 Amazon
Fra Holbergs tid (From Holberg’s Time), for string orchestra ("Holberg Suite"), Op. 40
9 02:56 Amazon
10 04:15 Amazon
11 03:49 Amazon
12 05:51 Amazon
13 04:01 Amazon
Sigurd Jorsalfar, suite for orchestra (or piano or piano, 4 hands), Op. 56
14 03:44 Amazon
15 03:18 Amazon
16 09:45 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 09:35 Amazon
2 06:22 Amazon
3 07:51 Amazon
Pelléas et Mélisande, suite for orchestra (or piano), Op. 46
4 05:56 Amazon
5 04:13 Amazon
6 02:43 Amazon
7 02:43 Amazon
8 02:26 Amazon
9 02:08 Amazon
10 02:02 Amazon
11 02:53 Amazon
12 06:23 Amazon
13 20:14 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick