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  Esoteric -
  Wagner: Overtures and Preludes - Karajan
  Wagner: Overtures and Preludes

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)
Track listing:
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 2

Review by Jonalogic February 5, 2011 (8 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have just auditioned this. The performances are fine in that burnished Karajan/BPO way; however, the sound is rather problematical, to put it mildly.

Whatever you may think of Karajan (in my case, not a lot...) I don't think that it could be denied that his Wagner - particularly when backed by 'perfektion orkester' playing from the BPO - was
a formidable proposition. Think of being rolled over by a Panzer tank...

So it is, here. You can argue the merits of Klemperer, Szell, Solti and Knappertsbusch's Wagner til the cows come home, but these are fine readings, powerfully played.

So much for the good news. However, I must advise that the recording - frankly - sounds very odd indeed to me: pinched sounding, nasally coloured, diffuse imaging, no central focus, bass-light and rather phasey.

In short, it's rather reminiscent of the nasty SQ encoding that these recordings were originally released in by EMI back in '74. I recall these only too well, as I was unfortunate enough to be testing these generation zero 'quad' technologies for the BBC Research Department at the time...! Not a pretty experience, to be sure.

The best thing that could be said about CBS's long and deservedly extinct SQ matrix pseudo-quad system was that it was definitely even-handed in relaion of the presentation of stereo and quad programme material - it sounded quite abysmal in both; anyone for 90 degrees phase difference between L and R signals for front centre images?

So, surely, SURELY Esoteric didn't use an SQ-encoded stereo master here?! If so, what had they been smoking beforehand?

I have written to the UK importer to try and find out more about this recording.

For the moment, though, I would hazard extreme caution. You have been warned.

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Review by petrushka1975 March 21, 2012 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I have quite a different opinion about the sonics of this disc than the reviewer above. It is a very good transfer preserving beautifully the hall sound and spatial information. The brass and mass strings sound more recessed than forward but not in a way that is smoothed over or lacks detail; it reveals a lot of subtle harmonies and variation -- a boon for anything Wagner. This contributes to an overall impression of sophistication and restraint and goes quite well with Karajan's Wagner conducting which is always more cerebral than visceral.

As a comparison to other discs in the Esoteric reissue program, I find the sound to be comparable in quality and character to the Beethoven Overtures disc conducted by Sir Colin Davis. It is very good even if it does not reach the sonic heights of the Decca discs in the program, but those are highest demonstration quality recordings to start with and will better the present recording on any format.

As to the source material used in the remastering, the packaging only says (in Japanese) "remastered from original analog master tapes". In comparison, the Kleiber Schubert Unfinished/No. 3 released at the same time says on the spine paper insert "remastered and mixed down in 24bit/96KHz from the highest quality, original 4 channel analog tapes". You may draw your own conclusion about what this means. Personally I don't obsess over these sort of details and always prefer evaluating a disc based on the final sonic merits, and to that end Esoteric has not disappointed.

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