Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan – Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra (1995/2015) [Qobuz FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Richard Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra; Till Eulenspiegel; Don Juan; Salome’s Dance Of The Seven Veils – Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:19:11 minutes | 1,39 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  – Source: Qobuz | Booklet, Front Cover | © Deutsche Grammophon
Recorded: 1972-1973, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany

Herbert von Karajan’s 1973 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is so immovably etched upon the collective consciousness that this comparative essay feels almost redundant – why would you not want a part of this slice of history? When Karajan went for a remake in 1983, again with the BPO, the fire had snuffed itself out: textures and dynamics are homogenised and inertia hangs heavy. Karajan’s 1959 dummy run with the Vienna Philharmonic (the recording Kubrick plundered) is very much work-in-progress. With more patches than the cloakroom of a Mayfair gentlemen’s club – and with the organ part inelegantly dropped on later – this grimly determined reading is heavy going.

But, in 1973, everything came right. The basic mood music is sombre, objectified, and an externalised beauty springs from Karajan’s detachment. His obsession with detail – making literal what many conductors approximate – is clear from the first bar, where Strauss’s low-end bass instruments are blended into a perfect sonic infusion, the bass drum roll somehow ‘inside’ the sustained tones of the other instruments. Karajan takes the introduction at a spacious and unhurried tempo and makes devastatingly creative use of Strauss’s dynamics – he seems to be the only conductor to have noticed that the trumpets begin p and there is no crescendo! Only when the rest of the orchestra enter does the dynamic level rise to f. Karajan plays that accented forte for all its worth – and the diminuendo to p and back again.

The controlled resonant echo of the recorded acoustic fits the orchestral sound like a particularly elegantly tailored glove. The string sound in this recording has too often been described in terms usually reserved for Mantovani, although ‘sumptuous’ and ‘opulent’ strike me as well-meaning but inappropriate words. Karajan’s strings never swoon and don’t decorate the air; during ‘Das Grablied’ (‘The song of the grave’) the rising first violins seemingly glide from out of the body of the orchestra, their softness cutting through the ensemble with considerable robustness. When lead violinist Michel Schwalbé begins to waltz, Karajan indulges in atom-splitting rubato and unearths another mislaid detail: a little harmonic glissando from another solo violin helps Schwalbé fly. Karajan’s control over the internal structural tempo relationships never falters. In terms of sheer conductor/composer empathy, this remains one of the most perfectly conceived and executed documents ever committed to disc.-Philip Clark “”

„Herbert von Karajan was a Strauss specialist, and if ever composer and conductor were united in musical philosophy, then these two were. Both favoured making a beautiful, creamy, homogenised sound over just about all else, and von Karajan clearly relished the opportunities this music offered for playing that combined both tonal opulence and virtuosity. His Zarathustra (aka 2001: A Space Odyssey) is, along with Fritz Reiner’s, probably among the two or three best performances preserved on disc, and von Karajan is nearly flawless on the other works as well. More good news: DG has given him warm, rich sound that is much better than their Berlin average. An essential Strauss collection.“ (David Hurwitz,


Richard Strauss (1864 – 1949)

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30, TrV 176
1. Prelude (Sonnenaufgang) 1:50
2. Von den Hinterweltlern 3:29
3. Von der großen Sehnsucht 2:07
4. Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften 1:59
5. Das Grablied 2:49
6. Von der Wissenschaft 4:32
7. Der Genesende 5:15
8. Das Tanzlied – Das Nachtlied 7:59
9. Das Nachtwandlerlied 5:05
10. Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28, TrV 171 15:30
Salome, Op.54, TrV 215
Scene 4
12. Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils 10:09

Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan, conductor