HD-Vinyl 24/192 (DGG) Ludwig van Beethoven – Complete Ouvertures (Karajan)

Recorded when the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan were in their plush phase, but under a full head of steam, these polished performances of the Beethoven overtures are a visceral delight. The sensuous, bass-heavy textures and glistening gut-strung string playing are still something to marvel at. So are the outstanding solos in the winds and the potent proclamations of the brass, which had become impressively secure at this point in Karajan’s reign, even though their tuning was still problematic. At times the treatment may seem just a bit Prussian and overbearing, and premeditated in effect rather than spontaneous. But the Olympian grandeur of the conceptions and the sense of festive sweep Karajan brings to the readings make this a set one can live with. The sound is boomy in the louder passages, but there is excellent atmosphere in the quiet ones. –Ted Libbey

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra:  Berlin Philarmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Vinyl 1970
Number of Discs: 2
Format: Flac
Label: DGG
DR-Analysis: DR 13
Size: 3.76 GB
Scan: yes
Server: FileFactory

Karajan’s best period for Beethoven, which makes it among the best periods in the second half of the twentieth century, came in the Sixties. These eleven overtures were recorded in two sessions in 1965 and 1969, showing all the power and integrity of the conductor’s mature Beethoven style without the glossiness that would soon creep in. All the performances are of a piece, given large-scaled readings that tend to merge the earliest overture (Creatures of Prometheius 1801) with the latest (Consecration of the House 1822). All of full of energy and commitment, and the measure of their success is that in the succeeding forty years, no one has made a better collection. IN fact, few later conductors have bettered any of these readings, unless you can accept the turn to HIP Beethoven that makes his music sound like bastardized Haydn rather than the revolutionary turn to Romanticism that it actually represents.

I think the three-star reviewer is entirely off base about the sound, which isn’t remotely treble-laden on my system; if anything, the recordings are a bit distant, boomy, and dull on top. But that’s a quibble; this is good analogue sound for the era. I can agree, however, that Karajan cannot be compared to Furtwangler, but then, they come form very different musical – and philosophical – worlds as far as Beethoven is concerned. Karajan doesn’t reach for the utmost tragedy, triumph, or moral authority, as Furtwangler so memorably did. Without acceding to Toscanini’s tight, disciplined style, Karajan certainly took it in mind. There’s a great consecration of the House Over. From Klemperer in full Romantic style, but Karajan’s fast, thrilling one is great, too.

On the used market this set is a great bargain. Strangely, there aren’t many collections of Beethoven overtures, and none that are this complete. I wouldn’t be without the Klemperer on EMI, although it omits a few (no one needs to bother with Namensfeier more than once, a work so generic that Beethoven published it as suitable for any grand occasion). There is a Szell collection that is basically Toscanini in better sound, a stodgy Colin Davis, a pedestrian Masur, and, coming closer to a true rival, and early Abbado, now out of print, that covers all of this music with the Vienna Phil. in less exuberant readings that represent probably the young Abbado’s best Beethoven.


A1 Leonore 1, Op. 138 10:45
A2 Leonore 2, Op. 72 14:45
B1 Leonore 3, Op. 72a 14:44
B2 Fidelio, Op. 72b 7:00
C1 Ouvertuere Zu Dem Ballett ‘Die Geschoepfe Des Prometheus’, Op. 43 5:22
C2 Ouvertuere Zu A. V. Kotzebues Festspiel ‘Koenig Stephan’ Oder ‘Ungarns Erster Wohltaeter’, Op. 117 6:46
C3 Ouvertuere Zu A. V. Kotzebues Festspiel ‘Die Ruinen Von Athen’, Op. 113 5:28
C4 Ouvertuere Zu J. W. V. Goethes Trauerspiel ‘Egmont’, Op. 84 8:22
D1 Ouvertuere Zu H. J. V. Collins Trauerspiel ‘Corolian’, Op. 62 9:04
D2 Zur Namensfeier, Op. 115 6:56
D3 Die Weihe Des Hauses, Op. 124 10:18

Analyzed folder: /192k LvB – All Ouvertures – Karajan
DR        Peak        RMS        Filename
DR14        -2.11 dB     -22.31 dB     A1 Leonore 1, Op. 138.aif
DR14        -1.63 dB     -21.51 dB     A2 Leonore 2, Op. 72.aif
DR13        -0.68 dB     -19.88 dB     B1 Leonore 3, Op. 72a.aif
DR12        -0.82 dB     -18.10 dB     B2 Fidelio, Op. 72b.aif
DR13        -1.57 dB     -19.62 dB     C1 Ouvertuere Zu Dem Ballett ‘Die Geschoepfe Des Prometheus’, Op. 43.aif
DR13        -1.62 dB     -18.80 dB     C2 Ouvertuere Zu A. V. Kotzebues Festspiel ‘Koenig Stephan’ Oder ‘Ungarns Erster Wohltaeter’, Op. 117.aif
DR13        -3.17 dB     -22.42 dB     C3 Ouvertuere Zu A. V. Kotzebues Festspiel ‘Die Ruinen Von Athen’, Op. 113.aif
DR13        -0.91 dB     -18.79 dB     C4 Ouvertuere Zu J. W. V. Goethes Trauerspiel ‘Egmont’, Op. 84.aif
DR14        -0.73 dB     -19.16 dB     D1 Ouvertuere Zu H. J. V. Collins Trauerspiel ‘Corolian’, Op. 62.aif
DR13        -1.72 dB     -18.71 dB     D2 Zur Namensfeier, Op. 115.aif
DR13        -1.11 dB     -18.39 dB     D3 Die Weihe Des Hauses, Op. 124.aif
Number of files:    11
Official DR value:    DR13


Ripping Info


  • Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Super light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
  • DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
  • Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5

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