Recorded 12 August 1970 in Großes Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria
CD No: TESTAMENT SBT 1474 Duration: 69 minutes Reviewed: April 2013
Herbert von Karajan conducts Mozart and Richard Strauss at the 1970 Salzburg Festival [Testament]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
This concert from the 1970 Salzburg Festival begins with a richly upholstered and generously articulated account of the supposed-inauthentic K297b (the Köchel number shared with the ‘Paris’ Symphony (No.31), and whether by Mozart or not, at least as scored here, it is the most delectable of pieces. This performance enjoys wonderfully mellifluous solo playing and is not short of intimacies or lucid textures and the moderate tempos allow for the fullest expression. The first movement chugs along beguilingly, played with much personality and assurance, and the slow movement, a genuine Adagio as treated here, is entrancing, blowing in from the Elysian Fields and with the eloquence of the deepest operatic aria. In the finale there is from the off much humour to the tripping Theme and the each Variation is delightfully characterised with virtuosic and fully ripened playing, and dancing for joy in the final measures. The four soloists were all legends of Karajan’s Berliners; at the time of this disc’s issue (at the end of 2012), only Lothar Koch had passed away, at the relatively early age of 67, the oldest being Günter Piesk (born 1921), the youngest Karl Leister, 1937.
This wonderful Mozart performance is followed by a staple of Karajan’s repertoire, Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra. The famous ‘Kubrick-2001’ opening is a little subdued with reticent timpani and what sounds like a church-hall organ, but it’s a noble ‘sunrise’ nonetheless. Austrian Radio’s recording is good and reveals the thrill of a performance that has seasoned sweep and a wonderful sheen to the strings. Karajan’s conducting, however expansive, doesn’t lose sight of goals and there is a cohesiveness that keeps this Nietzsche-inspired show on the road; and one senses that the audience is spellbound. Not everything hits home with the most precise ensemble, but there is a particular savouring to hear these artists ‘doing it live’ having laboured long over details and now free to express themselves. A seductive lilt informs ‘Das Tanzlied’, with concertmaster Michel Schwalbé shining through, and the clangour of the midnight bell in the final ‘Nachtwandlerlied’ is unusually vivid. It’s good to have these ‘on the wing’ renditions to supplement the studio recordings that were made in-tandem to the concert, the Mozart though featuring different soloists. Applause is retained.