Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies (1963)

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Beethoven Symphonies (1963)
Karajan Beethoven Symphonies 1963.jpg
Studio album by
Herbert von Karajan
Released1963 (1963)
RecordedDecember 1961 (1961-December) – November 1962 (1962-November)
LabelDeutsche Grammophon

Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies (1963) is a set of studio recordings made in 1961 and 1962 by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan. It is the second of four cycles of Beethoven's nine symphonies that von Karajan conducted, and the first of three for the German record label Deutsche Grammophon.

The complete set was first released in 1963 in Europe, and as a result the cycle of symphonies is now generally known as the 1963 cycle. This distinguishes it from a 1977 cycle of nine Beethoven symphonies made by the same combination of orchestra and conductor for the label Deutsche Grammophon and a subsequent cycle issued using the then-prevailing 16-bit digital recording technology, also for Deutsche Grammophon, in 1984. A fourth audio-visual cycle, issued originally on Laserdisc by Sony Classical, was completed not long before his death in 1989.


Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin
Herbert von Karajan's signature

The 1963 cycle of Complete Beethoven Symphonies remains available in the vinyl, CD and digital download formats. The eight-LP set on release in 1963 in the U.S. retailed for $47.98,[1] while a weekly average salary in 1963 was $114.[2] A limited edition eight-LP box set of 2000 copies on 180-gram vinyl was released in 2016 retailing for $166.[3]

The cycle is usually now presented across five CDs. It is available in 24-bit/96 kHz high definition sound on six hybrid SACDs[4] or one Blu-ray audio disc,[5] the latter two also containing a rehearsal session for the ninth symphony. The 1962 cycle has been cited for the particular commitment and driven energy of the playing by the orchestra, which was considered to mark high new standards among European orchestras.[6] Critics cited the interpretation of von Karajan as a benchmark in this repertoire.[7]

Recording technology in the genre of orchestral and concerto repertoire had also seen numerous advances in the preceding years, with the advent of tape from the mid-1950s as the medium for recorded music, which facilitated better fidelity and easier editing, together with advances in microphone technology and superior playback technology.[8]

Richard Osborne, music critic and biographer to Herbert von Karajan, cites "astronomical" recording costs in the venture, with a figure of 1.5 Million Deutschmarks expended to make the recordings.[9] Estimates at the time indicate a requirement to sell 100,000 LP boxed sets to recoup the costs.[9] The head of a rival classical music recording company, EMI, suggested that Deutsche Grammophon was "heading for a colossal financial catastrophe".[9]

The executive producer of the set was Deutsche Grammophon’s Head of Artists and Repertoire, Elsa Schiller.[9] Each recording in the cycle was engineered by Günter Hermanns, with production by Otto Gerdes (Nos.1,2,8) and Otto Ernst Wohlert (Nos.3-7,9). The location of the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin was a venue often used by this label for its studio recordings of this orchestra and conductor during the 1960s until the 1980s.

A figure of one million complete sets sold in the first ten years has been claimed.[10]


  • Freed, Richard (March 18, 1990). "RECORDINGS; Karajan vs. Karajan vs. Karajan vs. . . ". New York Times.
  • Goldfield, Edwin (1963). Statistical abstract of the United States (PDF). USA: U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • Lebrecht, Norman (2007). Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry. UK: Penguin Group.
  • Bartlett, Bruce (2012). Practical Recording Techniques: The Step- by- Step Approach to Professional Audio Recording. USA: Focal Press.
  • Osborne, Richard (2014). Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies LP set 1963. Berlin: Deutsche Grammophon GmbH.
  • Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies 1963 deluxe set. Berlin: Deutsche Grammophon. 2014.
  • Louis, Remy (2009). STATE OF THE ART: Deutsche Grammophon - The Story. Germany: Verlhac.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Freed: RECORDINGS; Karajan vs. Karajan vs. Karajan vs
  2. ^ Edwin Goldfield:Statistical abstract of the United States
  3. ^ "Beethoven Symphonies [8 LP][Limited Edition]". www.amazon.com. Amazon.com, Inc. January 15, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  4. ^ "Beethoven Symphonies SACD release". www.deutschegrammophon.com.
  5. ^ "Beethoven Symphonies CD+bluray edition". www.deutschegrammophon.com.
  6. ^ Norman Lebrecht: Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness: The Secret Life and Shameful Death of the Classical Record Industry. UK: Penguin Group.
  7. ^ Deutsche Grammophon:Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies 1963 deluxe set
  8. ^ Bruce Barlett: Practical Recording Techniques: The Step- by- Step Approach to Professional Audio Recording
  9. ^ a b c d Richard Osborne: Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies LP set 1963
  10. ^ Remy Louis:STATE OF THE ART: Deutsche Grammophon - The Story

External links[edit]