BBC broadcast: 15 May 1972, Royal Festival Hall, London
These performances, given in London and Paris in May 1972, can best be described as ‘work in progress’. In the months that followed, Karajan switched the orchestra’s modernist repertoire away from Stravinsky to the music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. The Stravinsky ensemble, he concluded, needed better horns and better support in the subsidiary wind sections. Not that the orchestra had disappointed in London. “Perhaps no passage showed more remarkably the near-perfection of the playing than the exchanges between muted trumpets and divided strings in the Introduction to Part 2,” noted Martin Cooper, the exacting chief music critic of the Daily Telegraph.
“The overwhelming experience was of a precision, a range of colour and of dynamics, wholly suited to the music. Karajan was able to give even the thickest textures a vibrant clarity, and the split-second timing and sureness of attack in the ‘Dance of the Earth’ and the ‘Glorification of the Chosen One’ showed not only the players’ skill but their extraordinarily intimate knowledge of the work.” Reviewing the 1977 recording in The Gramophone, Arnold Whittall echoed Glenn Gould’s thinking about the importance of alternative views of Le Sacre by noting that what Karajan brought to the piece was a “riveting realisation of the monolithic formal principles which give this score its coherence and its enduring radicalism”. This live London performance may have been work in progress. What is fascinating, however, is the uninterrupted view it provides of the blueprint to which Karajan was working. From the booklet note Richard Osborne, 2009