BBC Music Magazine article on Herbert von Karajan #4

The Philharmonia and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Sound

The Philharmonia and the Berlin Philharmonic’s sound, and also the “Karajan Sound” is discussed.  I venture to say that at that time, the fifties, although some could say I am biased, having been a member of the Philharmonia at that time, its sound was better than the Berlin Philharmonic.  This was because Legge scoured the world for the best players he could find, and also musicians were clamouring to get into the Philharmonia because of the take home pay. The Berlin Philharmonic’s strings did sound a little more robust than the Philharmonia’s strings, but Legge wanted, and got, a Philharmonia .string section with a wonderful shimmering , mellifluous sound.

I believe that the sound on the re-mastered CD’s one can buy today is only an approximation of the live sound each orchestra made. The live sound can be different in each venue and in each recording there are other factors to consider;  the recording studio, the tonmeister, the technicians and the conductor.

The conductor can set a good tempo and obtain the sound he wants but this can be altered drastically in the mastering, so that the final result can be a witches brew of the ideas of several people, and at the final listening session the conductor may have to accept a compromise of what he really wanted and what is presented to him.

I suppose the only way to judge would be to listen to each orchestra play live in the same concert hall, but alas, that is no longer possible, we have to rely on the approximation given by the CD’ s,  and everyone’s opinions are subjective.

Published in: Uncategorized on April 15, 2008 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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