Tchaikovsky: 6 Symphonies - Karajan

Tchaikovsky: 6 Symphonies - Karajan

Universal (Japan)  UCGG-9102/4 (3 discs)

Stereo Single Layer

Classical - Orchestral

Tchaikovsky: The Symphonies

Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

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Analogue recording
Comments (19)

Comment by Bret Mitchell - July 29, 2017 (1 of 19)

Recording dates from (since he recorded them so many times):
1. Dec 9-10 1977
2. Jan 25, Feb 21, 1979
3. Jan 29, Feb 21, 1979
4. Dec 9-10, 1976
5. Oct 22, 1975
6. May 5-7, 1976

Comment by Don_Angelo - April 21, 2018 (2 of 19)

Any information on how this one compares to the redbook ?

Comment by Joseph Ponessa - April 23, 2018 (3 of 19)

Thank you for asking the question.
Comparing the "Karajan Symphony Edition" box set with this newest release, the sound quality doesn't seem to differ much. Perhaps the musical texture, the "inner voice" of the music, is a tad stronger on the SACD.
The Red Book box houses four discs, with the Fifth Symphony divided between the third and fourth.
The Super Audio set, being single layer, comprises three discs, with two symphonies on each, and that is its principal advantage.
I also have the Third Symphony on the individual single-layer Japanese release, and found the new transfer to be superior.
Some friends will be gifted with the Red Book set, but I am retaining the English-language brochure.

Comment by Don_Angelo - April 28, 2018 (4 of 19)

Many thanks for your answer.
I own a redbook set, which was how I got acquainted with the first three symphonies as well as the sixth one. My feelings towards this set always were mixed because, despite some really beautiful music playing (Andante from the first symphony!) the deep reverberation from the Jesus-Christus-Kirche always felt very detrimental. Therefore, I hoped the SACD release would diminish it a bit, or at least bring some details and make the musical picture clearer.

To me, the main appeal would be Symphonies 1,2 and 6 but this set appears quite expensive (above 100 USD in here). Would you say it is worth the money?

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 1, 2018 (5 of 19)

this is my very first comment here. Please overlook my weak English. I have been reading on HRAudio for several years and now I have decided to registrate here and try to comment things here and there.

Now to the Karajan/Tchaikovsky Symphonies. I compared this SACDs to the redbook CDs of the Karajan 1970s recordings. The differences are to me very obvious, because the main difference is the absence of additional reverberation. Perhaps I have to explain 'additional' here. After my experience most regular CD releases (Deutsche Grammophon) received an additional reverberation as part of remastering routines.

So I can clearly say, that these SACDs are really preferable to the regular CD releases because of the reduced reverb. Regarding the price, I think these SACDs are a good choice for those with strong affinity, love and passion to these recordings.

(You can find a more detailed review of this set at 'jpc' - in German.)

Comment by Don_Angelo - May 4, 2018 (6 of 19)

Dear Contrapunctus,
I found a used copy online at a decent price, and since your review on jpc reminded me a review with a very similar style, I decided to give it a go. Mostly because I found myself to fully agree with the other review mentioned (a studio recording from Mahler’s 9th by Karajan, does it ring a bell?) and because it insisted on the improvement on the reverberation, which I already mentioned to be my main complaint about the redbook edition of these recordings. I am curious to see how better it will turn to be and I will post back as soon as I find out. So far, Emil Berliners did not disappoint in any of their remastering. I shall however point out I have high expectations this time.

Comment by hiredfox - May 11, 2018 (7 of 19)

Are any of you gentlemen able to enlighten us on the recording method used to re-master these. My hunch based on DG past practice is PCM but hopefully at a much higher sampling rate than their usual 96kHz.

Comment by Don_Angelo - May 11, 2018 (8 of 19)

I'll be checking the booklet as soon as my copy arrives. However, I doubt Emil Berliner will give that precision in the booklet. As far as I know, only DG disclosed this information in the SACD they produced. On each I own, the maximum sample rate given is 96khz - 24bits. Most are 48khz or 96 and I've seen only one going as low as 44.1khz - 24 bits.

In the meantime I checked both Emil Berliner and Universal Japan's website and found no information.

Comment by hiredfox - May 12, 2018 (9 of 19)

Thank you. It is hard to understand in 2018 why recording studios can be so reluctant (or thoughtless?) to publish such information in their booklets. If they are going to go to the trouble of re-mastering old tapes for SACD, a painstaking process in itself, then why would they not aim to re-record in the highest resolution possible; and why not be transparent about the recording process, there are no secrets to reveal? If they want to stick with PCM then what is wrong with DXD?

I recall a few years ago when Abbey Road re-mastered old EMI recordings that they chose to record in 96kHz PCM rather than DXD or DSD (quite wrongfully in many opinions; many on shared views with the recording engineers at the time but could not dissuade them from doing so). As a result the SQ of their re-mastered discs left a great deal to be desired and a clear opportunity lost.

Comment by Tony Reif - May 12, 2018 (10 of 19)

All of the Emil Berliner DG transfers for Japanese release since late 2011 have been at 24/192, or apparently sometimes in DSD.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 14, 2018 (11 of 19)

In 2015/2016 Emil Berliner Studios changed for their tape-transfers from DSD to PCM (24/192). I got this information directly from Mr. Maillard, because I asked EBS some questions about the remastering of japanese Universal Music SHM-SACDs.

before 2011: apparently converted old PCM-files in 24/96 (-> The Originals)
2011-2015/16: genuine DSD
since 2016: PCM (24/192) converted to DSD for SACD production

I totally agree with the confusing/frustrating situation regarding precise remastering information. This set of Tchaikovsky symphonies is a good example. You can have multiple releases (mostly CD, SACD and PCM-24/96-download).

This means that the current edition is derived from PCM 24/192 converted to DSD. - Unfortunately we don't get access to the gathered PCM(24/192) files as download. I don't know if that's a problem of copyrights/licensing or whatever. Only very, very few of these recent genuine PCM24/192-transfers are available as download in 24/192 (e.g. some albums of Karl Richter/Bach recordings from DG/Archiv Production).

Comment by hiredfox - May 14, 2018 (12 of 19)

If we had the Serial Numbers of the discs recorded in 2011-2016 during their DSD phase that would be really helpful to those of us who no longer buy PCM recorded material. One suspects the only way of finding out is to buy discs and take note of the actual recording dates and share the information on here.

My next job will be to browse through my Universal Japan SHM-SACD single layer discs and hope not to be too disappointed. I will publish my findings here in time.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 14, 2018 (13 of 19)

Well, if it's only about the serial numbers, I would suggest

UCGG 9031 (Bruckner 7/Jochum BPO) ... UCGG 9085 (Mahler 9/Bernstein BPO).

But it's in my opinion only an approximation, because - as said before - this whole topic is absurdly confusing and misleading. I think even Emil Berliner Studios don't know exactly which remastering/transfer was used on a certain SACD-release. They (EBS) are responsible (and commissioned by Universal Music Japan) only for the remastering process - not for the following production of CD/SACD.

Comment by hiredfox - May 15, 2018 (14 of 19)

Thank you. That is a good start and extremely helpful Contrapunctus.

Comment by Don_Angelo - May 19, 2018 (15 of 19)

I received my copy earlier today and have yet to go through the full set.

So far, I can confirm the musical picture is clearer. The reverberation is still very audible (which is expected given the recordings were made in a church) yet very diminished when compared to the redbook. The instruments are sharper, it is very difficult to assess whether it is from the higher resolution or the artificial reverberation being removed. The overall sounds far better; however, the removed reverberation also makes the edits more noticeable, which took me several times by surprise. As far as I am concerned, this incarnation revived my interest for these recordings I had put aside on the account of the gripes expressed earlier.

Thank you Contrapunctus for pointing out the removed reverberation which was the convincing argument for me.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 20, 2018 (16 of 19)

Glad to hear that you're not disappointed with this SACD release, Don_Angelo.

Regarding the reverberation, I should add that these recordings were made in the Berlin philharmonic hall - not Jesus-Christ-Church. The reason for the overall better/clearer sound quality is probably a combination of different factores. You mentioned already two. A third factor could be the circumstance that the tape transfer and remastering at Emil Berliner Studios was done with recent technology/equipment (-> good described in one comment of the Sibelius/Karajan SHM-SACDs).

Enjoy yourself revisiting and rediscovering these old/new recordings!

Comment by Tony Reif - February 22, 2019 (17 of 19)

More from Rainer Maillard on EBS's remastering, to add to the comments above, and in one case question what he apparently said before, and what I posted to another comments thread (unfortunately I don't remember which release it was - a disadvantage of this site is that it apparently doesn't track comments by user, so you can't access a list of your previous comments): all DG/Universal Japan SACDs were remixed from the original multi-tracks, not mastered from the original stereo mixdowns, and all were newly converted to DSD or (more recently) 24/192, none used previous 24/96 archival masters, as far as he can remember. So this supposed change in late 2011 to new DSD remasters may be the result of misinterpreting unclear translated info on Universal Japan's and vendor websites. There WAS one change in the printed credits around that time: to "DSD mastering by Emil Berliner Studios" was added the month and year. And that's how the credits still read, so there's no way of really knowing whether there was a PCM stage - there's a technical discussion about this here:

Which also includes a statement about EBS's remastering workflow.

Maillard says that IF more recent SACD reissues sound better it could be the result of improved restoration tools and has nothing to do with sampling rate.

This procedure of always going back to the original multitracks began, he says, in 1990, and includes the whole "Originals" series.

Comment by Contrapunctus - February 23, 2019 (18 of 19)

Thank you for new input to this Neverending Story, Tony. The former comment you can't exactly remember probably was in Karajan/Bruckner 4-6. - Anyway, regarding the discussion PCM vs. DSD, I share Rainer Maillard's opinion. A few years ago, he replied me to some questions about remastering, resolutions and bit-rates, that he prefers PCM technology to DSD - if I remember correctly. That may explain the actual work-flow (conversion to DSD is the final step - all steps before are done in PCM).

Let's hope that Universal Music Japan keeps EBS busy any more and that we sometime get access to EBS's 24/192-downloads which are up to now only availabe inside Japan!

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 3, 2019 (19 of 19)

At the end of June 2019, these recordings will be released by Universal as a set of Blu-ray + 4 RBCDs. The new edition is already listed on (Also comming at the same time: Bruckner/Karajan Symphonies 1-9)