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album review | classical music

Mozart, ‘Bruckner by the Vienna Philharmonic’

MOZART, SYMPHONY NO. 41 “JUPITER”; BRUCKNER, SYMPHONY NO. 7

(Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/

Herbert von Karajan) (ICA Classics)

The liner notes of this recording of an April 6, 1962 concert refer to it as a “historic” event in British musical life, one that left the audience at Royal Festival Hall “raving.” That’s debatable, but the two-CD set provides some illuminating listening. The “Jupiter” performance is fairly ordinary, apart from a rousing finale, but the Bruckner, a favorite of Karajan’s throughout his lengthy career, is more interesting. Unlike his 1970s recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra or his final reading of the symphony in Vienna, the performance captured here flows elegantly without getting bogged down in its own profundity. There’s a minimum of intervention from Karajan, who instead shapes the music into graceful, logical paragraphs. The VPO’s lower strings don’t quite have the resonant glow of the Berlin orchestra’s, but the horn playing has an unmistakable Viennese lilt, evident even in the limited sonics of the mono recording. The scherzo even manages to sound dance-worthy rather than lumbering, and the finale moves effortlessly to its conclusion.

DAVID WEININGER

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