Bruckner: Symphonies 1-9 - Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic (9 CDs)
Karajan's understanding of the slow but powerful currents that flow beneath the surfaces of symphonies like the Fifth or Nos 7-9 has never been bettered, but at the same time he shows how much more there is to be reckoned with: strong emotions, a deep poetic sensitivity (a Bruckner symphony can evoke landscapes as vividly as Mahler or Vaughan Williams) and a gift for singing melody that at times rivals even Schubert. It hardly needs saying that there's no such thing as a perfect record cycle, and Karajan's collection of the numbered Bruckner symphonies (unfortunately he never recorded 'No 0') has its weaknesses. The early First and Second Symphonies can be a little heavy-footed and, as with so many Bruckner sets, there's a suspicion that more time might have been spent getting to know the fine but elusive Sixth.-However, none of these performances is without its major insights, and in the best of them – particularly Nos 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 – those who haven't stopped their ears to Karajan will find that whatever else he may have been, there was a side to him that could only be described as 'visionary'.
As for the recordings: climaxes can sound a touch overblown in some of the earlier symphonies, but overall the image is well focused and atmospheric. A valuable set, and a landmark in the history of Bruckner recording.
Bruckner: Symphonies 1-9
Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan
Bruckner: Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Bruckner: Symphony No. 2 in C minor
Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 in D minor ‘Wagner Symphony'
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 in Eb Major 'Romantic'
Bruckner: Symphony No. 5 in B flat major
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A major
Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E Major
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor