In light of the "chill-out" trend of the 1990s, major labels released many albums of slow, meditative pieces to appeal to listeners who wanted relaxing or reflective background music. Deutsche Grammophon's vaults are full of exceptional recordings of classical orchestral music, and the performances by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic are prominent in the label's catalog. The slow selections on Karajan: Adagio are in most cases drawn from larger compositions, though these movements are frequently anthologized as if they were free-standing works. Indeed, many have come to think of the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 as a separate piece in its own right, largely because of its evocative use in the film Death in Venice. Furthermore, the famous Canon by Johann Pachelbel is seldom played with its original companion piece, the Gigue in D major, let alone in its original version for three violins and continuo; it most often appears in an arrangement for strings.
Karajan's mid-1970s Tchaikovsky interpretations are regarded as his finest in a career of performing the Russian composer's last three symphonies. Unitel's films from this period - released here for the first time on DVD - documented the maestro with his great Berlin orchestra on 35mm colour film and in stereo. “Others have gotten more sadness out of Tchaikovsky… but not more virility and controlled intense beauty than Karajan in the Unitel film.” - New York Times
Karajan surmounted this pinnacle of the choral-symphonic repertoire - which Beethoven himself called "the greatest work I have composed" - no fewer than four times in the recording studio, but only once live and on film: in this unique document from the 1979 Salzburg Easter Festival. The atmosphere of Salzburg's Festspielhaus and festival audience adds a special frisson to this conductor's classic interpretation of the Missa solemnis.
Herbert von Karajan conducted Brahms's choral masterpiece frequently throughout his long career, but only once on film and with both of these outstanding soloists. This unique document from the 1978 Salzburg Easter Festival was acclaimed by Diapason as "a magical interpretation, prodigiously realized … with a sublime fusion of timbres, a cohesion and, ultimately, a simplicity that are truly unequalled."
"…Karajan isn't performing the work: he's living it. The sweep and swagger of the opening theme, the imperious power of the battle music, the expansive monumentality of the closing pages: this isn't an act for Karajan; this is life itself. (…) anyone who loves either Ein Heldenleben or Der Helden Karajan who doesn't already know this recording is urged to check it out." 4,5/5 ~AMG