This was another landmark release in the mid Seventies when Schoenberg and
all the New Viennese School began to be accepted by an audience that was
increasingly becoming used to strange modernistic effects in classical music.
Karajan's recordings of these epic works have often been criticized as too
slick and almost too precise to warrant serious consideration but serious
consideration of the interpretations reveal a certain beauty and hallowed
pathos that goes beyond mere virtuosity. The Webern 'Passacaglia' is particularly
dramatic, twelve minutes of grotesque beauty warped into an almost Grosz
like canvas. Berg is more susceptible to beauty and drama as the 'Lyric Suite'
pieces demonstrate. Karajan paces them with exquisite tenderness and takes
loving care over the monstrously complex string parts, this is indeed a true
masterpiece. Berg's Op 6 is also fantastically potent with great washes of
sound cogently cogitated together forming a bleak and desolate landscape
that is almost akin to death. Finally we have the true masterpiece, Arnold
Schoenberg's terrifyingly vitriolic 'Variations for Orchestra'. This could
be said to be the perfection of atonality, a twenty-minute suite of madness
exploring the innermost facets of the orchestra in a grossly perverted way.
Under Karajan the whole project oozes class that constantly amazes, a performance
of such vivid perfection that one is constantly troubled by the deep inner
message of this wonderful music. Star of all this effortless virtuosity is
the magnificent Berlin Philharmonic, an instrument of true glory in classical
and in depth. Seen in the context of many subsequent recordings, Karajan's
ground-breaking records of the New Viennese School still hold the capacity
to thrill and the sound, it really takes some whuppin!
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