Schubert: Symphony No 8 (Unfinished) Strauss family: Waltzes, Polkas and Marches Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan (Recorded live at the 1968 Salzburg Festival) (Deutsche Grammophon 439 104-2)
Friday 18 August 1995
The Schubert Unfinished is both physically imposing and minutely flexible; not a great performance, perhaps (Furtwangler still reigns supreme on that score), but an extremely good one and considerably more communicative than, say, Karajan's 1950s Philharmonia version. The second movement is particularly lyrical, especially in the songful exchanges just before the second subject.
The Strauss family favourites are pure delight, even if the Vienna Philharmonic was apparently peeved at being "fobbed off" with sweetmeats while Karajan's own Berlin Phil tucked into a Brucknerian main course. Still, you'd never detect any disharmony from the actual playing, whether in Perpetuum mobile's helter-skelter, or the heady exuberance of the Radetzky March, the coy charm of Annen, the stylised kitsch of Der Zigeunerbaron or the cultivated refinements of the Emperor and Blue Danube waltzes.
Best, however, is Josef Strauss's sun-drenched Delirien, a Karajan speciality and a true mini-masterpiece that opens to tensely spiralling string tremolandos, then swings into one of the repertory's most gorgeous waltz tunes. After that, it's lightness and laughter all the way.
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