Karajan also conducted the Philharmonia at various Promenade concerts at Kingsway Hall, and the selections found on this collection are from performances from January 1958, January 1959, and November 1960. These concerts featured what some term ìlight classics,î and the somewhat popular pieces chosen for these concerts stand out because of the fine playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra and precise conducting of Karajan.
In a sense, these selections from three different times form a hybrid Promenade concert and give a sense of the kind of music chosen. Moreover, the quality of the performances under Karajan shows how attractive these pieces are. Some of the dances chosen, ìLes Patineursî ñ ìThe skatersî ñ by Waldteufel, the ìTritsch-Tratschî polka and ìUnter Donner und Blitzî polka of Johann Strauss II ñ have their charms. Likewise, the orchestral excerpts from the operas are a staple of concerts like these and bring some fine music to a popular audience. At the same time, the musical exactitude that Karajan demanded of all music, including these somewhat lighter, well-known works, conveys his strong sense of music-making the audiences of his day and to modern audiences through this recording.
Those familiar with Karajanís broadcasts of the New Yearís concerts from Vienna will recognize some of the other literature found on this recording, like the ìDie leichte Kavallerieî Overture by von SuppÈ, the ìLe Carnaval romainî Overture by Berlioz, and the overture to Offenbachís OrphÈe aux enfers. Karajan brought a wonderful freshness to these familiar works, and shows a deft hand with the French works. Indeed, the Berlioz selection is one of the more impressive pieces in this collection.
Yet other pieces are also noteworthy, particularly the excerpts from operas. The famous Intermezzo from Leoncavalloís Pagliacci demonstrates well Karajanís ability to shape the somewhat complex orchestration of this sometimes passed-over moment in the opera. At the same time, he captures the earnest light-heartedness of the ìPolka and Fugueî from Weinbergerís fairy-tale opera Schwanda the Bagpiper. Karajan also brings a sense of authority to the piece, which would have existed, even had not conducted some of the earliest performances of Weinbergerís opera.
Of all the pieces from operas, though, most impressive are the two excerpts of the ìPolovtsian Dancesî from Borodinís opera Prince Igor. Karajan brings out a buoyant quality that is essential to an effective performance of these pieces, which offer some contrast within the opera itself. The music demands attention to detail if it is to be effective, and thus the dynamic shifts, solo lines, and other elements of Borodinís score sound remarkably natural in this recording. The ìPolovtsian Dancesî represent the fine working relationship that Karajan achieved with the Philharmonia Orchestra, an ensemble that has had a tradition of excellence under various conductors.
If EMIís series ìThe Karajan Collectionî may be regarded as a sound portrait of the conductor, it is important to include this fine selection of more popular music alongside the other releases in this projected twenty-five CD set. The selections included in these Promenade Concerts from the late 1950s are as much part of Karajanís legacy as the fine performances from his later Easter Festival in Salzburg that began in the late 1960s. In this context, this recording contributes yet another dimension to our appreciation of Karajanís position as one of the outstanding conductors of the twentieth century.
As with other releases in EMIís Karajan Collection, the liner notes by Richard Osborne provide concise information about the contents of the CD. The packaging is similar to others in the series, with a photograph of Karajan from the time he recorded the music on a brown and tan background. This kind of presentation certainly conveys the uniformity intended with the set. It is a solid release that contributes to an understanding of Karajanís legacy in recorded sound.
James L. Zychowicz
image_description=The Karajan CollectionóPhilharmonia Promenade Concert
product_title=The Karajan CollectionóPhilharmonia Promenade Concert
product_by=Philharmonia Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan (cond.)
product_id=EMI Classics 7243 4 76900 2 0 [CD]