Great Performers: Herbert von Karajan
For nearly four decades, the Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-89) dominated classical music. He was its superstar, with a lifestyle to match, and he sold millions of recordings. His powerbase from 1956 to his death was the Berliner Philharmoniker which, thanks to the vast number of recordings they made together, became known the world over as one of the greatest orchestras of the day.Read more…
- Strauss II (Jr.) • Die Fledermaus • OuvertüreDie Fledermaus
OuvertüreNicolai Gedda (Tenor), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano), Helmut Krebs (Tenor), Rita Streich (Soprano), Karl Dönch (Bass-baritone), Erich Kunz (Baritone), Rudolf Christ (Tenor), Erich Majkut (Tenor), Franz Böheim (Speaker), Herbert von Karajan
Philharmonia Orchestra, Philharmonia Chorus1955, London, Kingsway Hall
- Mozart • Concerto for Horn and Orchestra No. 4 in E flat major KV 495 • III. Rondo. Allegro vivaceConcerto for Horn and Orchestra No. 4 in E flat major KV 495
III. Rondo. Allegro vivaceDennis Brain (Horn), Herbert von Karajan
Philharmonia OrchestraNovember 1953, London, Kingsway Hall
- Beethoven • Symphony No. 8 in F major op. 93 • IV. Allegro vivaceSymphony No. 8 in F major op. 93
IV. Allegro vivaceHerbert von Karajan, Philharmonia Orchestra℗ 1956
- Beethoven • Symphony No. 4 in B flat major op. 60 • III. Allegro molto e vivaceSymphony No. 4 in B flat major op. 60
III. Allegro molto e vivaceHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1963
- Brahms • Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) op. 45 • 5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (Soprano, Chorus)Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) op. 45
5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (Soprano, Chorus)Gundula Janowitz (Soprano), Eberhard Waechter (Baritone), Wolfgang Meyer (Organ), Herbert von Karajan
Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Singverein℗ 1964
- Bruckner • Symphony No. 4 in E flat major WAB 104 'Romantic' (Version 1878-1880) • III. Scherzo. BewegtSymphony No. 4 in E flat major WAB 104 'Romantic' (Version 1878-1880)
III. Scherzo. BewegtHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1976
- Brahms • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major op. 77 • II. AdagioConcerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major op. 77
II. AdagioAnne-Sophie Mutter (Violin), Herbert von Karajan
Berliner PhilharmonikerSeptember 1981, Berlin, Berliner Philharmonie
- Puccini • La Bohème: 'O soave fanciulla' (Rodolfo, Mimì, Act I) • O soave fanciullaLa Bohème: 'O soave fanciulla' (Rodolfo, Mimì, Act I)
O soave fanciullaMirella Freni (Soprano), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor), Herbert von Karajan
Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1973
- Wagner • Die Walküre WWV 86B: 'Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind' (Wotans Abschied und Feuerzauber / Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music: Wotan, Act III) • Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind - FeuerzauberDie Walküre WWV 86B: 'Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind' (Wotans Abschied und Feuerzauber / Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music: Wotan, Act III)
Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind - FeuerzauberThomas Stewart (Baritone), Herbert von Karajan
Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1967
- Wagner • Tristan und Isolde WWV 90: Isoldes Liebestod (Isolde's Love-Death, Act III) (Instrumental version) • Sehr mäßig beginnendTristan und Isolde WWV 90: Isoldes Liebestod (Isolde's Love-Death, Act III) (Instrumental version)
Sehr mäßig beginnendHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1984
- Honegger • Symphony No. 2 in D for String Orchestra and Trumpet ad libitum H. 153 • II. Adagio mestoSymphony No. 2 in D for String Orchestra and Trumpet ad libitum H. 153
II. Adagio mestoFranz Wesenigk (Trumpet), Herbert von Karajan
Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1973
- Prokofiev • Symphony No. 5 in B flat major op. 100 (1944) • I. AndanteSymphony No. 5 in B flat major op. 100 (1944)
I. AndanteHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1969
- Mahler • Symphony No. 9 in D major • II. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derbSymphony No. 9 in D major
II. Im Tempo eines gemächlichen Ländlers. Etwas täppisch und sehr derbHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1984
- Mahler • Symphony No. 9 in D major • III. Rondo-Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzigSymphony No. 9 in D major
III. Rondo-Burleske: Allegro assai. Sehr trotzigHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1984
- Mahler • Symphony No. 9 in D major • IV. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltendSymphony No. 9 in D major
IV. Adagio. Sehr langsam und noch zurückhaltendHerbert von Karajan, Berliner Philharmoniker℗ 1984
The Berliner Philharmoniker was, in many ways, Karajan's creation: its sound – rich, concentrated, capable of spinning seemingly endless phrases, and built around a core of woodwind players, each with a strong personality – is immediately recognisable. And together they kept classical music in the wider public's attention.
Karajan was a master of the media. Early on he realised the power of recording and later video, and exploited it with consummate skill. He was the man who made the first Beethoven symphony cycle conceived as such and recorded to be released in a single set. He was the man who made the first digitally recorded opera and he was the man who spearheaded the launch of the CD. Had he been alive today he would no doubt have embraced streaming technology without a moment's hesitation.
It was Karajan, also, who shaped the young Philharmonia Orchestra, an ensemble created explicitly for recording and run by the EMI producer Walter Legge. Karajan recorded extensively with them, including his first Beethoven symphony cycle, a series of great opera sets (including the classic 'Der Rosenkavalier' and 'Falstaff') and some magnificent Sibelius symphonies.
Karajan was a man of the theatre: he learned his craft in the opera houses of Ulm and Aachen, and it was for performances of Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde' in Berlin that, in 1938, he received the life-changing review headlined ‘Das Wunder Karajan'. He led La Scala, Milan and the Staatsoper in Vienna before creating his own operatic home at the Salzburg Festival and its Easter ‘twin'.
Opera would never leave his musical diet and he excelled in an astounding range of composers from Mozart via Wagner and Verdi to Debussy, Puccini and Richard Strauss. Singers adored the support he gave them and, even though he favoured voices that were perhaps a size light for the stage, he nurtured them in the studio to rise to the occasion, often magnificently.
With the Berlin Philharmonic, Karajan explored the orchestral, concerto and choral repertoire extensively and ranged over a remarkably wide field – he was a superb interpreter of 20th-century music (Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Honegger, Sibelius, Nielsen, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as the Second Viennese School). His core interests, however, remained focused on the 19th century and he recorded the complete symphonies of all the major composers – Beethoven (four times), Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, each cycle of which contains classic performances.
Often criticised for smoothing the rough edges of music and obsessing about creating a beautiful sound, Karajan could be surprisingly visceral, but his true strength was his grasp of a work's architecture, making his Bruckner a thing to wonder and his Wagner incandescent and dramatically powerful.
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