Herbert von Karajan ∙ Bach Art of Fugue 1944


This is a valuable addition to the Herbert von Karajan discography, as it’s the only recording of him conducting Bach’s Art of Fugue. The orchestra he directs was the Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester des Großdeutschen Rundfunks in Linz in December 1944.

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Bach: The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 (Abridged Version for String Orchestra)

Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester des Großdeutschen Rundfunks
Herbert von Karajan ∙ conductor

Recorded ∙ 14 December 1944 ∙ Linz ∙ Stadttheater ∙ Reichs-Rundfunk-GeseIlschaft ∙ Radio Studio Recording

Article number: MC 5005
UPC barcode: 791154054420
Recording date: 1944
Release date: July 2016
Booklet: 8 Pages
Total timing: 45:19
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2016 Meloclassic

November 2016 ∙ MusicWeb International ∙ Herbert von Karajan conducts Bach
In the 1980s von Karajan proposed to EMI that he record The Art of Fugue with his organist brother Wolfgang, an undertaking that was apparently rejected out of hand by the company. The orchestra he directs in this well-preserved radio performance was the Reichs-Bruckner-Orchester des Grossdeutschen Rundfunks, a new name for the Städtisches Symphonieorchester of Linz, whose General Music Director was Georg Ludwig Jochum, brother of Eugen. Renaming occurred in 1943, apparently at Hitler’s express wish. The orchestra attracted the expected luminaries of Austro-German conducting; Böhm, Knappertsbusch, Kabasta, Schuricht, Keilberth and indeed Karajan who, in 1944, had been side-lined because of his marriage to his second wife who had a Jewish grandparent. Due to the unique nature of this reading, and the fact that Karajan was thwarted when he wished to return to it nearly 40 years later, this release will be of great interest to admirers of the conductor. It’s heard in excellent sound and with fine supportive documentation.
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February 2017 ∙ MusicWeb International ∙ Herbert von Karajan conducts Bach
For Karajan lovers this is most certainly a rare treat. It constitutes the only recorded document we have of him conducting Bach’s Art of Fugue. The string sound is warm and appealing, and the venue is conducive to permitting the listener to hear the contrapuntal lines clearly and cleanly articulated. Karajan brings out the contrasts in the music, so it doesn’t feel like 45 minutes of all the same. Whilst Contrapunctus 1 and 3 are sedate and leisurely, 10 and 11 are light, sprightly and crisply articulated. I particularly like Contrapunctus 2, which has a sort of lilting gait. In Contrapunctus 9, Karajan delicately builds up the fugue from a solitary polyphonic line, with favourable results. Throughout he’s careful to avoid romantic excess. A thoroughly enjoyable performance and a valuable addition to the Karajan discography.
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February 2018 ∙ French Diapason ∙ Gaëtan Naulleau ∙ Herbert von Karajan conducts Bach
Huit ans avant Messe la en si pour His Master’s Voice, partagée entre Vienne et Londres, Karajan enregistrait L’Art de la fugue à Linz – ville dont le Führer voulait faire le centre culturel de son Europe, et dont il avait refondé l’orchestre à grands frais en 1942 pour en faire une formation d’élite. La bande réalisée pour la Radio du Reich est une révélation de taille (qui n’apparaissait pas dans la base de données de l’Institut Karajan) et son unique témoignage dans une œuvre que le chef disait placer au pinacle. Le cycle, à Linz, est incomplet. L’absence des canons se comprend (les orchestres de chambre les écartaient par commodité ou les confiaient à un clavecin).
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