Karajan's return to EMI after almost a decade away in rival camps is exactly what one would expect, a big-scale, rip-roaring -performance with the finest French musicians challenged to produce their warmest, most expressive playing, fearless of any accusation of vulgarity. Maybe it is the quality of EMI recording, cut at a very high level (despite the short playing-time the sides are well filled), but this sort of Karajan performance for me harks straight back to his old work with EMI, where refinement has been the keynote of his splendid recordings for DGG with the Berlin Philharmonic.
The impression of massiveness is intensified by the comparatively deliberate basic tempi that Karajan chooses for the outer movements, not soRead more deliberate as Klemperer's and far more idiomatically moulded, but still grandly symphonic. For the syncopated second subject Karajan slows a fraction more, but allows a lift in the rhythm, a feeling of exhilaration. The end of the exposition with its horn reference to the second subject is exquisitely delicate by contrast, though the Gallic french horn tone brays with characteristic vibrato. The development keeps the same steady tempo, which robs it of some measure of excitement, but the build-up gains in power with the finest possible contrasts of texture. The coda too avoids an exaggerated whipping up of excitement, though the return to the theme of the introduction (always teetering on the edge of banality) is tackled fearlessly and carries complete conviction.
A nicely chosen tempi for the middle movement, on the slow side with warmly expressive playing from everyone, notably the cor anglais soloist, is recorded just a fraction close. An account of the finale exactly similar in style to that of the first movement, with the danger-moment of the fortissimo return to the slow movement theme again is tackled fearlessly. The comparatively measured basic tempo brings a danger of heaviness in the main theme, but Karajan avoids it and uses his tempo to draw unusually resonant playing from the lower strings and textures as clean as the scoring will allow. A good recommendation then, though all the mid-price versions I have listed have much in their favour, notably the Beecham now available as a World Record Club reissue. The recording quality for Karajan (provided by the Pathe-Marconi engineers) is big and beefy to match the performance. It is the conductor who provides the inner clarity rather than the engineers.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [09/1970, reviewing the original LP release of the Symphony] Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony in D minor, M 48by César Franck Conductor:
Herbert von Karajan
Period: Romantic Written: 1886-1888; France Date of Recording: 11/1969
Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra, M 46by César Franck Performer:
Alexis Weissenberg (Piano)
Herbert von Karajan
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1885; France Date of Recording: 09/1972
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A Mismatch?January 16, 2014By Donald B. (Paradise, PA)See All My Reviews"I have loved the Franck Symphony since I was 14, and I'm sure that my sense of what it should sound like has been influenced by the no-name orchestra that performed it on a classics-for-the-masses discount label on which I first heard it. I have been told that Toscanini did many of those. I have loved Von Karajan's work since I first heard him do the Rosenkavalier. I know he was not limited to Strauss and Mahler, where I feel his work is unmatched; his performance of an old chestnut like Offenbach's Barcarolle is entrancing. But I think he was just ordinary with Mozart symphonies, and dreadful with this Franck symphony. I think he must have disliked the piece. His reading is edgy and jagged where it should be smooth, and the dynamic contrasts are extreme where they should be moderate. It's a roller-coaster ride, in which the power of Franck's subtlety in building phrases is lost. As for the line of the whole work, there is none, and this steals the magic from the finale in the last movement. Was Von Karajan too German for this Gallic music? The Variations Symphonique is a different sort of work and Sigi Weissenberg does some nice pleasant playing. The mood is right, and the execution flawless."Report Abuse