Karl Böhm - Late Recordings 23 CD Box Set mp3
Title: Late Recordings 23 CD Box Set
Date of release: 2015
Label: deutsche grammophon
Catalog number: 479 4371
Size MP3: 1562 mb
Size FLAC: 1134 mb
Karl Böhm Late Recordings" will be of interest primarily to die-hard fans of the great Austrian maestro. Released in 2015 with superbly mastered sound, this 23-disc set includes recordings made for Deutsche Gramophone between 1970 and 1982 with the Vienna Philharmonic (VPO), Staatskappelle Dresden (SD) and the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). The set comes in a sturdy, elegantly lithographed two-piece "cube" (box and removable lid) with each disc in its own discretely illustrated cardboard sleeve. A glossy 60-page booklet contains a complete table of contents along with some limited discographical information, texts, translations, and a biographical essay by Christoph Schlüren.
This new box set makes an interesting, if not necessarily essential companion to DG's earlier 22-disc "Symphonies" compilation from 2013 (DG 0289 480 7484 6). Together, the two collections offer a broad overview of Böhm's symphonic output for Deutsche Gramophone between 1960 and 1982. An incomplete portrait of the artist as it turns out, since they do not also include the conductor's near-legendary readings of opera by Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Berg. (Might a third box be on the way?) There are a few instances of repertory overlap between the two sets (Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart), but not so many as to render either anthology redundant.
I would hasten to point out that there are no examples of a truly "bad" performance among the late recordings. On his worst, most unexceptional days, Böhm was serviceably adequate in the studio. And on his good days (a few of which are captured here) he was great, indeed. Highlights (for me) include the stunning, heart-stopping, effervescent readings of Wagner overtures and preludes (discs 22-23), a marvelously dark, lyrically mannered Schumann 4th (disc 14), a genuinely outstanding performances of the Mozart "Requiem" (disc 13), and a powerful and pleasingly idiomatic rendition of Richard Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben" (disc 18). The last three symphonies of Tchaikovsky come as a pleasant surprise (discs 19-21), as do a thoughtful and probing pair of Bruckner symphonies (the 7th and 8th) with the VPO (discs 5-6). A handful of Haydn symphonies are lithe and lively (discs 7-8), as are the charming, full-bodied performances of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" and "Sinfonia Concertante" for winds K 297 (disc 12).
More problematic for me are the early digital recordings of Beethoven, The 9th Symphony (disc 1), though featuring some gorgeous ensemble singing, in no way surpasses Böhm's halcyon 1970 reading. Again, it's not "bad", but (to my ears anyway) there is an indifferent feel to the phrasing in the first three movements. The recorded choral sound in the "Missa Solemnis" (discs 3-4) seems muddy and distant, though, again, Böhm's vocal quartet transcends the admirable. I was disappointed by the threadbare collection of Beethoven overtures on disc 2, nice as the performances are; could DG not find additional filler material to extend the timing beyond a meager 41 minutes?
The later recordings of Mozart and Schubert, while good, do not stand up particularly well by comparison with the better-known readings from the 60s found in the "Symphonies" box. The more-recent digital Mozart with the VPO is generally well-paced and energetic, but there is a noticeable lack of subtlety in articulation, and one sorely misses the dramatic momentum and purposefulness of the older Berlin Philharmonic recordings. Likewise, the readings of Schubert from the late 70s and early 80s lack the magic, the lyric buoyancy and zest of Böhm's "classic" cycle with Berlin.
The "Symphonies" set from 2013 is highly recommended, notwithstanding a disappointingly lackluster Brahms cycle. Perhaps a bit less focused and thus not quite as satisfying overall, "Late Recordings" is nonetheless recommended to all Böhm complete-ists.
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