Karajan's reading of the Sixth, the darkest symphony of Mahler, is a revelation… the combination of polish, rhythmic point and flexibility make for a reading that has both concentration over the broadest span and consistent fantasy and imagination over detail. ..The recording is one of the very finest ever given to Karajan in Berlin, with ample range and richness…. a Mahler recording which sets new standards.
… magnificently prepared and executed; the orchestral playing is wonderfully beautiful, and the conductor's balancing of his vast forces is magisterially subtle… the controlled power of this account of the Sixth is enormous. Without that, the gorgeousness of the detail might have seemed cosmetic; but the strength of the framework is enough to carry it brilliantly. ..The Andante moderato, in particular, has a grandly sustained radiance that has probably never been matched.
Records and Recording (1978)
With this original jackets’ box set Deutsche Grammophon concludes its series of 4 grand sets that present almost the totality of Herbert von Karajan’s output for the Yellow Label – and hence perhaps the most magnificent legacy in the history of recorded music. On 70 CDs “KARAJAN – THE OPERA RECORDINGS” features the 14 operas Karajan recorded for DGG – from “Carmen” to “Parsifal”, from “The Merry Widow” to “Rosenkavalier”, from Mozart to Puccini. And, of course, the complete “Ring”.
Made after his official resignation from the Berlin Phil and six months before his death, this last recording is likely - at least in part - reflective of Karajan's mental tossing and turning before he died. We could gather that he felt quite wronged, and wanted to express forgiveness then to bid the world a farewell.