TCHAIKOVSKY: Ballet Suites from Swan Lake, The Nutcracker & The Sleeping Beauty – Vienna Philharmonic Orch./ Herbert von Karajan – Decca 00289 478 5028 Pure Audio stereo-only Blu-ray (PCM 2.0, DTS MA HD 2.0, Dolby TrueHD, 24 bit/96K), 69:30 [Distr. by Universal] *****:

I am referring everyone who reads these new DGG Blu-ray Pure Audio reviews to  reissue for comments and details on this series in general.  Though I am very critical behind the decision made to release much of this material in two channel format, the recordings made before surround sound or made since they stopped original recording in multichannel fits this series to a tee. This is one of those recordings. The Karajan suites from the three great Tchaikovsky ballets have long been a standard recording and an absolute must for any classical collection worth its salt. Decca was always able to record Karajan far better than DGG, giving him a weightiness of sound so lacking on many of the conductor’s yellow label issues.

Though it cannot be claimed that the Vienna Philharmonic had completely recovered from its wartime tribulations (some of the sections lack the opulence that would be attained in the years to come), and most assuredly is not the orchestra it would be, it is still nothing to sneer at, and the more rugged sound and seat-of-your-pants ensemble unity—which they were still attempting to achieve—actually adds to the excitement of these performances. If I still prefer Ormandy overall as an interpretative benchmark in this music, Karajan adds a degree of anticipatory breathlessness that puts these readings in a class all by themselves. The sound has never been better—though even the Decca CDs were quite high level in this regard—and this is one release that simply begs to be acquired.

—Steven Ritter