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To appreciate the superiority of Karajan's late '60s Shostakovich Tenth to his digital remake of 15 years later, play the second movement on both recordings. The 1967 performance is dizzying, its (alleged) portrait of Stalin suggesting a machine that has gone dangerously out of control. The 1982 remake, only about a second slower, is far more tame, far less urgent. That's pretty much how it goes throughout: the digital remake is simply too smooth (although it has its admirers).
Even aside from comparisons between Karajan I and II, what we have here is the unlikely achieved: a conducting superstar known for prizing beauty of sound (sometimes to the detriment of the music) delivers a nearly definitive rendition of a mid-20th century symphony whose pages are imbued with bitterness, melancholy, and sardonic wit. The BPO here sounds like a (slightly more refined) Russian orchestra on overdrive. Perhaps the third movement could be a shade more grotesque and "ironic," but on the other hand the solo horn fanfare (based on the opening horn call of Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde") sounds as chill and desolate as dawn on a winter morning in Moscow. Too bad, though, that DG still hasn't gotten around to remastering the slightly congested and harsh-sounding CD, perhaps for inclusion in its "Originals" series.