Herbert von Karajan recorded Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony six times in the studio -- and the first was this 1953 recording with the Philharmonia for EMI. He followed it with four recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic from 1960, 1966, 1971, and 1976, and one with the Vienna Philharmonic from 1983. Beyond that, Karajan also made two video recordings, the first with the Berlin Philharmonic from 1973 and the second with the Vienna Philharmonic from 1984, plus a live recording with the Vienna Symphony from 1954 has also surfaced. This Fourth, Karajan's first Fourth recorded as part of EMI's conversion from 78s to LP in the summer of 1953, is warm in tone, refined in technique, and stoic in interpretation. With the warmly polished and wonderfully characterful playing of the Philharmonia, Karajan doesn't over-inflate Tchaikovsky's scoring or exaggerate his drama, but rather plays the work straight -- and thereby grants the Fourth a nobility and strength that hyperbolic conductors miss. While opinion has waxed and waned over Karajan's later Fourths -- most find them supremely well-played, some find them interpretively disengaged, a few find them both -- the merits of his 1953 recording have always been praised, and its beauties have never been more apparent than in Opus Kura's loving remastering. Coupled with Karajan and the Philharmonia's opulent 1952 recording of Tchaikovsky's Suite from "The Sleeping Beauty," this disc will especially please those who venerate the late, great Austrian conductor.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36|
|The Sleeping Beauty, suite for orchestra, Op. 66a|