SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120; BRAHMS: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 – Berlin Philharmonic (Schumann)/ Philharmonia Orchestra/ Herbert von Karajan – EMI

by | Dec 5, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120; BRAHMS: Symphony
No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 – Berlin Philharmonic (Schumann)/ Philharmonia
Orchestra/ Herbert von Karajan

EMI Classics 7243 4 76881 2   68:25****:

The rarity on this reissue is definitely the Schumann D Minor Symphony
recorded 26 May 1955, and issued in mono on LP in ten-inch format.
Schumann’s orchestral music was not a high priority in the Karajan
canon, and his approach is brisk, even perfunctory in the Toscanini
tradition, although the emphasis on beauty and luster of tone is
strong. Along with the hefty strings, upper and lower, the tympani part
receives salient miking. No break between the first two movements, as
Schumann requires. The Romanze proceeds diaphanously, with the unnamed
concertmaster’s intoning the tracery of the violin part most
delicately.  Karajan plays the Scherzo for its vibrant, singing
quality, executing its martial rhythms with tongue in cheek. The 16th
notes which act as combination bridge-trio passage receive a glib
series of runs, only to return to the dancing march of the original
opening. Some wonderful diminuendi for the progression to the Lebhaft
section of the finale, much more thoughtful than prior, perhaps aware
of both the Cantelli and Furtwaengler dimensions afforded this fateful
transition. Karajan plays the finale for alternating sonic clusters,
occasionally turning the antiphons into chamber music, until the
tympani urges itself on the proceedings; then to the fugato, the soul
of transparent, romantic polyphony. Mannheim rockets take us to and
through the lyric and hurried coda, a virtuoso rendition whose last
page shimmers with a glitzy excitement.

The Brahms E Minor (25-26 April 1957, stereo) achieves the fluid
buoyancy we associate with Karajan more thoughtful temperament,
although I wonder if Celibidache’s period influence in Berlin
(1948-1953) might be present in the handling of cadences and the strong
emphases on the pizzicati in the strings. Karajan milks the opening
movement’s rising and falling thirds to good effect in the winds, even
to bringing out a bit of Hungarian dance before the recapitulation. The
tonal warmth of the Philharmonia strings is worth noting for the second
movement, and Dennis Brain’s horn part always resounds
resplendently,  a joy to hear.  Fine pacing for the last two
movements of the E Minor, reminding me how much sympathy Karajan had
for Brahms, first revealed to me in his 1947 A German Requiem with
Schwarzkopf and Hotter. The variations for the finale wind up a
forceful, thoughtful momentum; a solid peroration which makes this
rendition, along with the Schumann, a notable musical reference in the
Karajan Collection.

–Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01