Herbert von Karajan recorded almost everything in the standard orchestral repertoire once, many works two or three times, between his 1950s recordings for EMI with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the early 1960s for Decca with the Vienna Philharmonic, and his 1960s - 1989 recordings, mostly with the Berlin Philharmonic, for Deutsche Grammophon.
With the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven's Seventh Symphony resounds with melodic force, the Eighth is a masterful blend of grace and wit, and the Ninth - directed by Karajan himself - is a vital and explicitly dramatic reading of Beethoven's revolutionary work.
Herbert von Karajan directs the Berlin Philharmonic in an Italianate take of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony and an assured rendering of the Fifth, while the "Pastoral" Symphony, conceived and derected by Hugo Niebeling in 1967, is a revolutionary mix of styles - Fantasia meets Expressionism meets film noir.
With the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven's First Symphony is marked by its fire and finesse, the Second by its exquisite winds and strings, and the "Eroica" is played with members of the orchestra seated as though performing in an Ancient Greek theatre.
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