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Love child

If Furtwängler and Toscanini had conspired to have a love child, the result would have been Herbert von Karajan.

We've covered all the Third Reich stuff with Herbert but what about his conducting style and approach?

Von Karajan was inspired to become a conductor when he saw a performance by Toscanini. He embraced Toscanini’s commitment to precise details but he also emulated the vague gestures and philosophical approach of Furtwängler.

Did it work? To some, these are irreconcilable differences and von Karajan was an odd hybrid or mutt conductor.

To most, hell yes it worked. Von Karajan was akin to a rock star for most of his career.

Not only was he a top tier conductor of German “big orchestra” music such as Wagner, Bruckner, and Brahms, he was also a master at conducting Debussy and Ravel.

Von Karajan even out Italian-ed the Italians when it came to Verdi, Puccini and verismo operas such as I Pagliacci.

To my ear, his best work was with the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1970’s. This was von Karajan’s third decade with the Berliners and the power of his conducting was nigh unto omnipotent.

The 1980’s had digital music mediums and von Karajan became obsessed with perfection. However, his complete cycle of Beethoven’s Symphonies in DDD sound was flawed from a performance point of view.

There were still some watershed recordings in the 1980’s. The Bruckner Eighth with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mahler Ninth with Berlin both come to mind as candidates for recording of the decade.

Von Karajan excelled in the arena of pushing forward the technology of classical music in order to reach wider and wider audiences. In case you didn’t know, the first CD ever made was a recording of Strauss’ Ein Alpensinfonie with the Berlin Philharmonic and von Karajan.

This wasn’t the first classical CD, it was the first CD.

In 1982, Berlin and von Karajan had a falling out over the hiring of a clarinetist.

After a probation period, every new player in the orchestra was subjected to a vote. The orchestra fiercely protected its right to decide upon new members.

The clarinetist in question was voted down 73 to 4. The claim was that her tone didn’t blend with the rest of the clarinet section. Yes, her tone. Sabine Meyer was to be the first female member of the Berlin Philharmonic--ever. Von Karajan suspected that her gender was the issue, not her tone.

Does this episode make von Karajan a champion of women’s rights?

It depends on whether or not you like him. If you like him, then yes he was trying to break the gender barrier in the orchestra.

If you don’t like him then he was trying to extend his autocratic power and force the orchestra to accept a player that was a bad fit.

Why would a conductor obsessed with orchestral tone and the clarity of CD’s force a player into the orchestra that would corrupt the pristine sound he and the Berliners had worked on for almost 30 years? I’m just saying...

Von Karajan’s final lasting legacy may be his most impressive accomplishment. There will never, ever, be another conductor with better hair than Herbert von Karajan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjWFhaKiSVk

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If Furtwängler and Toscanini had conspired to have a love child, the result would have been Herbert von Karajan.

We've covered all the Third Reich stuff with Herbert but what about his conducting style and approach?

Von Karajan was inspired to become a conductor when he saw a performance by Toscanini. He embraced Toscanini’s commitment to precise details but he also emulated the vague gestures and philosophical approach of Furtwängler.

Did it work? To some, these are irreconcilable differences and von Karajan was an odd hybrid or mutt conductor.

To most, hell yes it worked. Von Karajan was akin to a rock star for most of his career.

Not only was he a top tier conductor of German “big orchestra” music such as Wagner, Bruckner, and Brahms, he was also a master at conducting Debussy and Ravel.

Von Karajan even out Italian-ed the Italians when it came to Verdi, Puccini and verismo operas such as I Pagliacci.

To my ear, his best work was with the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1970’s. This was von Karajan’s third decade with the Berliners and the power of his conducting was nigh unto omnipotent.

The 1980’s had digital music mediums and von Karajan became obsessed with perfection. However, his complete cycle of Beethoven’s Symphonies in DDD sound was flawed from a performance point of view.

There were still some watershed recordings in the 1980’s. The Bruckner Eighth with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mahler Ninth with Berlin both come to mind as candidates for recording of the decade.

Von Karajan excelled in the arena of pushing forward the technology of classical music in order to reach wider and wider audiences. In case you didn’t know, the first CD ever made was a recording of Strauss’ Ein Alpensinfonie with the Berlin Philharmonic and von Karajan.

This wasn’t the first classical CD, it was the first CD.

In 1982, Berlin and von Karajan had a falling out over the hiring of a clarinetist.

After a probation period, every new player in the orchestra was subjected to a vote. The orchestra fiercely protected its right to decide upon new members.

The clarinetist in question was voted down 73 to 4. The claim was that her tone didn’t blend with the rest of the clarinet section. Yes, her tone. Sabine Meyer was to be the first female member of the Berlin Philharmonic--ever. Von Karajan suspected that her gender was the issue, not her tone.

Does this episode make von Karajan a champion of women’s rights?

It depends on whether or not you like him. If you like him, then yes he was trying to break the gender barrier in the orchestra.

If you don’t like him then he was trying to extend his autocratic power and force the orchestra to accept a player that was a bad fit.

Why would a conductor obsessed with orchestral tone and the clarity of CD’s force a player into the orchestra that would corrupt the pristine sound he and the Berliners had worked on for almost 30 years? I’m just saying...

Von Karajan’s final lasting legacy may be his most impressive accomplishment. There will never, ever, be another conductor with better hair than Herbert von Karajan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjWFhaKiSVk

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