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Karajan's Brahms. A Discographic Clarification (#HvK115)

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Herbert von Karajan conducted - and recorded - Brahms a lot! And, by and large, always well. So it is only reasonable that newcomers would still wish to explore it. But which of his recordings? The 60s cycle? Or the one from the 70s, after all? Or even the one from the 80s? How many recordings did he make? And which ones are hiding behind which labels? This post, an addendum to my series of discographies, was inspired by the #HvK115 Project on Twitter, where TheSymphonist and I challenged ourselves to come up with 115* great Karajan recordings on the occasion of his 115th birthday, seeing that HvK is still often snubbed by the self-proclaimed cognoscenti. Turns out, the challenge was to keep it down to 115! Anyway, with regards to the Brahms (the 60s DG recordings were included in the #HvK115 list, although many others could have rightly been, too), this little post is meant to help you identify which release contains which cycle (or parts thereof). The performances, to the excent they can be sensibly lumped together, are listed in chronological order. Individual releases from the various cycles are included, too, so you know which ones you might already have and which performances are hiding behind which cover, if you're in the market for some Karajan-Brahms.

For orientation: Karajan has recorded the Brahms Symphonies as a cycle four times, all with the Berlin Philharmonic and for DG (or the DG-affiliated Unitel). Once in 1963/64, in the Jesus Christus Kirche, then live on video in 1973, in new recordings from the Philharmonie in 1978, and finally in digital recordings from the Philharmonie between 1986 and 88 (which is more or less identical with the Sony/Telemondia visual releases). Additionally, he recorded Brahms in the studio in London (Kingsway Hall) for EMI with the Philharmonia Orchestra (Sys. 1, 2 & 4) and in Vienna: A one-off from the Musikverein with Brahms' 2nd from 1949 and then two fabled recordings - Symphonies 1 and 3 - with Culshaw for Decca from the Sophiensaal. The rest consists of radio broadcasts throughout the years, most notoriously perhaps the 1943 (!) Brahms 1st with the Concertgebouw, which must have just loved to play under Karajan.

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