Karajan, Herbert von

Performance DetailsRelease DetailsReviews
Soprano: Leontyne Price
Alto: Hilde Rössel-Majdan
Tenor: Fritz Wunderlich
Bass-Baritone: Walter Berry

Choir: Wiener Singverein
Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan

Date: August 24, 1960
Venue: Großes Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria
Live Recording

Label: Archipel
Cat No.: ARPCD 0511
Released: January 1, 2011
Herbert von Karajan’s recordings of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D minor offer an old-fashioned, highly reverent approach to the work, and they share a common manner of interpretation that persisted with the conductor for over two decades. Anyone familiar with Karajan’s Deutsche Grammophon recordings of the Requiem from the 1970s and ’80s will not be surprised at the extremely slow tempos, heavy orchestral accompaniment, thick choral counterpoint, and nearly operatic style of the vocal soloists, which make this performance suitable only for traditionalists. Fortunately, it’s that kind of listener who will seek out this historic recording from 1960, and who will already know of Karajan’s penchant for the grandiose. Because the live analog sound from the Salzburg Festival is still a little fuzzy and lacking in dimensions, despite Archipel’s digital mastering, this recording has the added burden of sounding a bit ancient to modern ears. Even so, this is no difficulty for Karajan’s fans or students of the conductor, who are already adept at listening past the defects of mid-20th century concert recordings. While many listeners would prefer to hear the Requiem performed in authentic 18th century period style, with fleeter tempos, lighter textures, and a leaner choir and orchestra, this recording dates from a time before the historically informed movement and shows what Mozart’s Requiem often sounded like to the previous generation. The four bonus tracks are the Overture and excerpts from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, also performed at the 1960 Salzburg Festival under Karajan’s direction, featuring Leontyne Price as Donna Anna.
— Blair Sanderson, AllMusic.com
The 1960 Mozart Requiem from Salzburg features Leontyne Price, Karajan, and a stellar ensemble.

The year 1960 proved a banner year for soprano Leontyne Price (b. 1927), considered the first Afro-American singer to achieve international status as a classical artist in opera.  After her European debut, she and conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) bonded well; and here in Salzburg (24 August 1960), they both appear at the top of their respective forms.  Karajan assembles a stellar vocal ensemble for the Requiem, including the inimitable voice of tenor Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966), whose appearance in the Tuba mirum, Recordare, Domine Jesu Christe,and Benedictus sections proves especially felicitous.  We could spend considerable time focusing on individual touches by Price in her stratospheric tessitura or the clear, plangent bass tones of Walter Berry. The performance has majesty and breadth, the pacing solemn without heaviness, unlike many of the Berlin Karajan experiences. Typically, Karajan favors a grand, rounded sound; but in the affecting Lacrimosa andBenedictus, the approach heightens the echt Mozart experience, whatever the later Suessmayr emendations.

The “pirate” label Archipel adds some fifteen minutes of the Don Giovanni production from the same Salzburg Festival.  Price projects a severe Donna Anna, from her opening “Or sai chi l’onore,” where she has deduced that the Don had been complicit in her father’s death, and she begs vengeance upon the murderer. From Act II, Scene 5 we have the recitative and aria, “Crudele?  Ah, no, mio ben! Non mi dir, bell’idol mio,” in which Donna Anna entreats Don Ottavio to delay talk of marriage until her period of mourning has passed. The grim fatality of the scene finds a deep response in Price, whose “il ciello ancora/Sentira pieta di me” lacks any real sense of faith, despite the melismatic fluency of her assertions.  With the Karajan ensemble’s excitement and tonal pungency behind her, Price virtually has the Salzburg audience howling their delight.  A fine record, with more than acceptable sound, and an insert photo of Eberhard Waechter that will serve as a pin-up.
Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition [December 15, 2015]