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Karajan’s ashes weigh 15 kilos

October 23, 2017 by norman lebrecht

84 comments.


It’s supposed to be ‘the biggest box in CD history’.

All the Karajan you can eat on Decca and DG.

Scoff ye not: It will sell like tombstones.

Watch.


Comments (84)

  1. Elizabeth Owen says:

    Does it mention that he joined the Nazi party not once but twice?

    1. Dennis says:

      A tiresome, and commonly repeated falsehood. How very boring. Do try to come up with some more original anti-Karajan material.

      1. Robert Holmén says:

        He only joined once?

        Why, that’s only one more time than the decent people.

        1. Polly says:

          Bravo Robert. And he never recanted the Nazi ideology, at least to my knowledge. Thank you for your marvelous comment!

        2. Sue says:

          But not quite enough to deter a friendship and respect for HvK from none other than Carlos Kleiber whose own father took the family away from Germany once Hitler came to power. Seems Carlos took HvK at his worth. And he visited HvK’s grave each time he left Salzburg, according to a friend who spoke about Kleiber in one of the two documentaries made about him in 2011.

          1. Alexander Hall says:

            What I do find incredibly tiresome are these self-appointed moral apostles in social media and on the net who are incapable of separating the art that is produced from the individuals who created it. We will presumably never have an end to these rabid denunciations of anything that HvK ever did, but it’s instructive to recall Georg Solti’s response to a critical journalist who was incredulous that a Hungarian Jew could ever conduct the works of Wagner (and very successfully too). “I can admire the genius who wrote this wonderful music and at the same time detest the human being who did so.” If you poke around long enough, you will always find something distasteful in the lives of great men and women.

          2. Robert Holmén says:

            Kleiber… born 1930, left Germany at age four, grew up in Argentina.

            Not really a witness to the happenings in Germany or HvK’s exploitation of it. His adult career was in an age when the Holocaust was being talked down in the West.

            If he respected HvK, it’s unlikely it was a knowledgeable dismissal of HvK’s Nazi sympathies.

      2. Polly says:

        His own recordings are frequently the best the best anti-Karajan material.

        1. Polly says:

          Bugger apparently thought there was a repeat sign after words ‘the best.’

          Meant it to read: His own recordings are frequently the best anti-Karajan material.’

          Sorry chaps.

          1. Bouquinist says:

            Where is my giant Carlos Kleiber box ? Now that would be something to be played in a continuous loop …

          2. Bouquinist says:

            Well, I guess it depends on how you define “giant box”. What I meant, of course, is that it’s a pity that Kleiber didn’t record more … Btw, his New Years’ concerts from Vienna are a perfect remedy to André Rieu illness.

          3. Thornhill says:

            @BOUQUINIST

            Even if DG were to license other labels’ Kleiber recordings to put together the biggest, most complete box possible, how many Kleiber fans don’t already own all of those recordings, or at least most?

          4. Bouquinist says:

            You’re absolutely right. You’re also lacking a sense of humour.

          5. Polly says:

            Thanks for the link; I couldn’t find anything connected to it except a photo but shall try again.

            It’s really a to-each-his-own thing, I’ve simply never liked Karajan’s sound. I believe he had tremendous potential but that the ego got audibly in the way. Just my opinion.

    2. FS says:

      really? karajan was cooler than I thought…

  2. Cubs Fan says:

    $1000 at Amazon, so less than $3 per disk. But…most people who would interested in his recordings probably have bought them in the last 30 years. But HvK did a lot of great work for DG and if they want to honor him this way, fine. I wonder how many will actually sell.

    1. herrera says:

      The suckers who bought the original CDs at $30 per disk (accounting for inflation in today’s dollars). I’ll wait. On his 100th anniversary, they will release a complete set of all his outtakes and bloopers, all for 3 cents per disk.

      1. Seymour says:

        You can buy most Karajan discs in UK charity shops for as little as 50p!

  3. Thornhill says:

    This could have been on half as many discs.

    It’s yet another reissue series that for stupid nostalgia reason presents recordings as they first appeared on LP — meaning plenty of discs with less than 40 minutes of music.

    1. Thomasina says:

      I heard that 2CD for 9th symphony…really?

      1. Thomasina says:

        Sorry, Beethoven.

      2. Thornhill says:

        I suspect that the entire 9th is on 1 disc and the 8th is on the second disc — back in the LP days the 8th and 9th came together on two LPs because the 9th took up 3 sides and the 8th only 1 side (Movement 1 on Side I, Movements 2 and 3 on Side II, Movement 4 on Side III, and Symphony No.8 on Side IV).

        1. Thomasina says:

          Thank you for your explanation. And I realized that I had completely forgotten the LP had two sides…

  4. Steve P says:

    Wonderful musician, not the greatest human. Tempting if I didn’t have Apple Music and a decent cd library already. I’ll still add it to my wish list.

  5. Dave T says:

    How does this fit on a shelf? and still remain accessible? Where then would one put it? Use it as a footstool?
    I question the design.

  6. David Brooks says:

    Wasn’t his best work with EMI? At least I hope so since I have that box set.

    1. Petros Linardos says:

      Short answer is yes, because I think that EMI is more overweighted toward his earlier years.

      My personal opinion is that Karajan’s best work was in the 1950s and early 1960s, especially in live recordings. During those years he recorded more for EMI.

      1. David Brooks says:

        That’s good to know. I do have some of his DG recordings as well of course.

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          I am particularly fond of live recordings from Salzburg.

          For instance, I have the this set’s Mozart pieces in a separarate CD and love them.

          http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/Drilldown?name_id1=8429&name_role1=1&name_id2=62031&name_role2=4&name_id3=56047&name_role3=3&genre=154&bcorder=3419&comp_id=1969

          The review to this Verdi Requiem substantiates what many, myself included, think of the earlier great Karajan performances. I see those qualities in his 1951 Bayreuth Meistersinger (EMI !), which I love.

          http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=200289

  7. Dominy Clements says:

    Not a very flattering choice of cover portrait. Looks more like snooker legend Terry Griffiths.

    1. David Brooks says:

      To find a non-flattering portrait of Herbert is an achievement in itself

  8. herrera says:

    I’d buy it if it came in 14K gold, and a lock of his hair.

  9. Robert Kenchington says:

    I already own the four ‘cube’ boxes plus the ‘Choral works’ mini-box released last Easter. The ‘Ltd Edition’ of 2,500 really refers to the initial print run of the this new ‘Complete Recordings’ set. Once they’ve sold that amount they’ll consider whether to produce more copies. My hunch is that because many Karajan collectors already own much if not all of the DG recordings, this new megabox will fall short of expected pre-Christmas sales figures. Consequently, DG may well reduce the price by a significant sum in the new year, in which case the set may well be worth having albeit as an investment piece. However, that decision may also be a dubious one as 2019 will bring the 30th anniversary of Karajan’s death and I can’t believe that DG will simply ignore the occasion and not reproduce the DG legacy all over again. I suspect they may well release the four cubes again but perhaps with different artwork etc. The story certainly doesn’t end here!

  10. Edgar says:

    Please, DG, make me a god. (paraphrased after Livia, of “I, Claudius” fame). To each music listener her or his own conductor pantheon. HvK is resurrected time and again right up to this latest apotheosis of marketing. It amazes and fascinates me how dead conductors come to life again thanks to the ever advancing ways of technologically reproducing their music making. There is now so much available and to enjoy that, having only two ears and only the ability to hear a bar at a time, I would need to live almost forever to listen to it all, including the contents of the latest Karajan shrine. Happy listening to those who buy it.

  11. Richard Craig says:

    Mr Kenchington as far as Karajan is concerned the story will never end,i regard myself as a TRUE fan and I already own most if not all these recordings,what I am looking for now are archive live performances,and some of these are gradually starting to appear from various sorces.and depending on whether your pro Karajan or anti Karajan 2019 is going to be a big year for accessing this great great conductor

  12. herrera says:

    Wikileaks has just released the Deutsche Grammophon hacked emails, and it includes their business plan for the upcoming projects:

    1) “The World of Karajan”. Instead of a cube box set, it will be a sphere, like a globe (get it, “world”), it’ll be a subset of the current CDs around the theme of “worlds” (Holst The Planets, Dvorak New World Symphony, etc) and other spherical objets (Verdi The Masked “Ball”, etc).

    2) “The Darker Side of Karajan”. Continuing the spherical set, the CDs will be arranged like Darth Vader’s Death Star and features music favored by Goebbels, Stalin…

    3) “Karajan Forever”. Not a boxed set, it’s an App (compatible with iOS and Android) that plays a continuous loop, non stop, forever, at full volume, of the entire collection of Karajan.

  13. NYMike says:

    I’m waiting for modern technology to come up with a complete Koussevitsky box set with cleaned up acoustics….

  14. Halldor says:

    Interesting, really, how quickly the Karajan myth has faded. You never hear younger musicians talk about him; younger conductors never cite him as a role model (except as something to avoid); his recordings rarely top comparative surveys. Still, it’s a shame in a way that he’s become the preserve of ageing male audiophiles who use him as stick with which to beat (often superior) living artists, and the slightly creepy “blood and soil” types who go on (and on) about some long dead notion of a “core German repertoire”.

    Karajan was more interesting than that. Think of his Sibelius and his Honegger, his extraordinary Holst, his Verdi, his Schoenberg & Webern. The conductor of the 1940s and 1950s was a breathtaking presence; in later years he was at his best when working with soloists (like Rostropovich) whose personality offset his own, and stopped him growing leaden. The whiff of sulphur merely adds to the appeal.

    1. Cubs Fan says:

      It’s not just the Karajan myth that has faded. Young musicians I know lack knowledge of anything happening prior to their birth. And they don’t seem interested in learning about it, either. To this millennial generation, conductors such as Toscanini, Walter, Karajan, Reiner, Szell, Furtwangler, Paray, Monteux, Munch and the others of that era are complete unknowns. They are somewhat aware of Bernstein.

      People can criticize HvK all they want. Yes, he was a self-promoting, egotistical, jealous man. But he was no fraud. He developed the BPO to a level of perfection and depth of sound that was breathtakingly. OK, so few of his recordings may be considered “the best ever”, “definitive”. Who cares and who says? I can’t think of a single recording he made that I would consider a dud. The same cannot be said of most of his colleagues. An honest evaluation of his legacy will admit that most of his recordings are at least as good as anyone else.The breadth of his repertoire was astonishing, too. He was a master of the Russian school, doing Balakirev, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov brilliantly. He left wonderful recordings from the French composers and needless to say authoritative Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, Berg, and Webern, for example. He didn’t spend much time in the British literature, but when he did, such as The Planets, it was terrific! And let’s not forget that HvK was one of the first to break down the sexist barriers and allowed women into a previously all-male orchestra.

      HvK was not the only great conductor, but he absolutely was one and we’re all the poorer today for his passing. There’s not one conductor alive today who can measure up to him. That’s my 2 cents worth.

      1. thornhill says:

        @CUBS FAN

        You say: “Young musicians I know lack knowledge of anything happening prior to their birth. And they don’t seem interested in learning about it, either.”

        Why should they?

        Classical music suffers from being too backwards looking. Trying to maintain the cult of personality around musicians who have been dead for decades is case and point.

        That’s not to say that we shouldn’t acknowledge their musical contributions, but the way music labels keeping pushing these old artists is purely motivated for profit (it’s cheaper to reissue an old recording than make a new one) and it comes at the expense of spotlighting living artists and contemporary repertoire.

        You cannot blame younger people for not getting excited about classical music when the face of it is often some guy who died 30 or 40 years ago.

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          Come on. When I was a teenager, I was excited by good music and musicians, plain and simple. I didn’t care whether the musicians were male or female, young or old, dead or alive. Still don’t.

          I could say the same of my peers back then. For coolness and sexiness, we all looked elsewhere or, sometimes, at each other…

          Are today’s young classical musical buffs that different? I’d be very surprised, but would welcome some insight from younger people in this blog.

          1. Thornhill says:

            @PETROS LINARDOS

            Well, I’m under 35, so I think I would count as a young person.

            I think everyone here would agree that there is something exciting about being able to hear a musician live in concert who you like but have only heard on recording. You cannot get that experience with dead people.

            If you want to popularize classical music it makes no sense to keep putting these long dead conductors on god-like pedestals and insist that no one today comes close to their brilliance. What’s the point of going to a live concert if everyone is a hack compared to Karajan, Reiner, Szell, Furtwangler, etc? How do you expect people to connect with the music if the message is always that everything was better in the past — don’t bother with anyone living because they’re all crap compared to the old masters.

          2. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            @THORNHILL
            As a young music lover, who are the most exciting conductors of our time in your eye? What are the most unforgettable concerts you had? We do value your opinion.

          3. Petros Linardos says:

            @Thornhill
            I totally agree about the value of live music. Also about not looking down upon today’s musicians. The latter should not rule out revering dead musicians. Maybe we should agree that the message should be that there was and is greatness (ditto with crap!).

            I vividly remember my exuberance when, as a 12-year old in 1977, I bought LP’s of Rachmaninov and listened to them. This didn’t stop me from idolizing Richter (then in his early 60s), or some then young musicians called Maurizio Pollini and Kristian Zimerman. Incidentally, I hated Karajan for his personality, but revered Karl Böhm, and totally looked up to him as the old master. Little did I know who was more actively involved with the Nazis…

            A problem I personally have with our days is that there is less of an alignment between great musicianship and stardom. There have always been great musicians who didn’t have the career they deserved, like Ivry Gitlis and Kurt Sanderling. This is still the case.
            On the other hand, while I don’t think there is any shortage of first class talent today, we don’t find it as consistently among the stars as we used to: there may be more musicians today whose career is disproportionate to their talents.

            As for attracting young audiences, that’s probably best done in early childhood. That was my experience as a child and now as a father.

            Beyond childhood, I believe people will connect to the music if they like it, image be damned. Personality cults around musicians don’t create new audiences.

          4. Thornhill says:

            @ANALECK KRAM-HAMMERBAUER

            To name a few conductors:

            John Eliot Gardiner because of his unique programs, like 3 hour concerts that pair Brahms’ orchestral music with choral music by Bach, Schubert, Schutz, or a 9 hour Bach marathon, or his upcoming “Ring of Cantatas” that’s 30 cantatas over 10 concerts in 3 days. Those kinds of concerts are way more memorable and fun than your standard overture/concerto/symphony. And when he talks from the stage about the music I find him to be very engaging. For example, his encore after Mozart’s 41st was his analysis of it vs the Mozart’s 1st symphony using the orchestra to demonstrate his points. That’s also something you do not typically get. And despite his reputation, he’s far and away the most accessible conductor I’ve met — I’ve gone backstage and talked to him after concerts numerous times.

            Michael Tilson Thomas and Esa-Pekka Salonen for their willingness to program 20th century and contemporary music that most conductors eschew. MTT’s American Mavericks series, for example, was really well done. And Salonen is an all around excellent conductor (MTT doesn’t do much for me in core repertoire).

            Riccardo Chailly – In core repertoire he’s never disappointed and I like that he’s willing to risk being unconventional in his Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms recordings.

            Yannick Nezet-Seguin – While I remain skeptical about him as an orchestral conductors, I have a subscription to the Met and he’s the right choice to lead the house. Massive operas like “Don Carlo” can sometimes feel painfully slow, but YNS has a way of propelling the action forward.

            James Levine – He may be past his prime because of health reasons, but I’ve heard so many memorable performances with him at the Met.

            Memorable concerts off the top of my head:

            Doris Dorrie’s Cosi Fan Tutte production at the the Berlin State Opera. Clever production that deeply understand’s Mozart and Da Ponte’s admiration for the Enlightenment, and it’s a lot of fun.

            Mackerras conducting Wagner, Dvorak, Elgar and Delius with the Berlin Philharmonic. A strange eclectic program that only Mackerras could pull off.

            Shostakovich 7 with the FWM/Cleveland Orchestra. The 7th is a bit vapid, but the Cleveland Orchestra sounded “second to none.” Absolutely amazing playing.

            Gardiner’s Brahms concerts mentioned above, but specifically the one with the German Requiem. His Monteverdi Choir makes just about every other choir sound like the high school glee club.

            Nashville Symphony performing Grainger’s “The Warriors.” I never thought I’d get to hear it live, but they did and it was as fun to watch as hear because Grainger keeps the percussion players so busy (and it requires like a dozen of them).

            “Meistersinger” at the Met with Michael Volle and Levine. I’m not a Wagner fan, but that was one of the most enjoyable 5 hours at the opera.

    2. Seymour says:

      How did he manage to turn Furtwaengler’s world renown BPO into a Mantovani orchestra?

      1. Polly says:

        Excellent question and perfect equation!

        1. Sue says:

          I’m only sorry Kleiber isn’t here to answer that question! Oh, wait…

          1. Polly says:

            Kleiber … three bars of his are worth more than the entire works of Karajan put together. The magic of that man! This topic is making me awfully free with my opinions, I’m afraid.

      2. Polly says:

        Furtwaengler … what a hero both as man and conductor. Cripes how I love him! Bliss upon the ears and balm for the spirit to know of his bottle. Much more deserving of commemoration than Karajan, purely from a musical standpoint let alone everything else.

  15. Pedro says:

    I have the four boxes and will buy the new one if the CDs have been remastered. Karajan was the best conductor I have heard live and I have heard all of the so called best conductors of the last 40 years. But it’s a matter of personal taste. Others may disagree.

  16. Hamburger says:

    Who is it on the cover artwork? Vladimir Ashkenazy?

  17. herrera says:

    It’s not Karajan, it’s DG, which like a Central Bank, can keep on printing limitless supplies of CDs of the same music every time some suit at DG wants a Christmas bonus, devaluing all prior issues.

    There are more Karajan CDs in circulation in the world than any other conductor’s (like VHS tapes of Tom Cruise movies, they are ubiquitous ans useless), which means in terms of exclusivity, they are worthless, if you think you have the only complete set of anything in mint condition, I assure you so do 10,000 others in Japan.

  18. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    It would sell if they include the FULL stereo recording of Karajan’s Bruckner 8 with the Preussische Staatskapelle in 1944! A single disc will outsell these meaningless old stuffs.

    Could anyone recommend some books about the immense damage of cultural goods committed by the Allied Powers during and after World War II?

    1. Ronnie Drew says:

      Anal that phoney stereo record has been doing the rounds for yonks. Tahra produced a set of war time Furtwaengler discs from the original 30cm tape stolen by the Russians, who left only bad copies which DG had to use, the originals not only sound miles better but have some lost gems. The booklet insert for the Tahra set, mentions the 44 Karajan stereo, it was only experimental ersatz stereo which could not be broadcast at all. It sounds just like the DDR recording of the Kempe Der Freischutz made in 1951,Dresden, they tried to manufacture a sort of fake stereo sound, it gives the impression of stereo but is not 2 channel.

      1. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

        Thank you so much for the valuable information.
        – Your Anal

        1. Ron says:

          Your welcome just two words, Felix Weingartner, without the von! Fantastic bloke, his 6th is ok.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeWkXtC6Yac

          1. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            I happen to get a CD of Bruno Walter’s symphony recently, also released by cpo. I was totally shocked by how lame it sounded. I just wonder why he even bothered to publish that “symphony” …

        2. Ronald says:

          Two words Gunter Wand, go get his Missa Solemnis on Testament, miles better than K’s, you would imagine you were really in Olmutz watching the Archduke Rudolf’s enthronement, like Westminster Abbey and Zadok the Priest! Every word of latin text is clear as crystal unlike the 1966 K.

          https://testament.co.uk/gunter-wand-1241.html

          1. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

            Glad to see your recommendation. I also value greatly on clear articulation of syllables and words in vocal works.

            Does that CD generally sound good? What still prevents me from extensively buying historical recordings is my concern about the sound quality. I know this is peasant, but I have to admit that if I were confronted with two choices, I would probably pick a new recording by ECM or Harmonia Mundi over a historical one.

          2. Ronnie says:

            The sound of the Testament Wand Missa Solemnis from 1965 is excellent stereo, they did 30 or more practice runs before recording it, Wand also had no Choir master he managed to do it all himself, with Legrand an ex French resistance bloke doing the sound.
            Do not be put off by historical CDs, labels like Testament, Naxos, Archipel, Pearl, Prieser, Tahra, Opus Kura are fine. Tahra has the best sound for pre-war/wartime Furtwaengler as they used the 30cm Master tapes returned from Russia unlike DG, who had to make do with duff copies.

          3. Ronald mcDonald says:

            Check out the Tahra site the best historical label for Furtwaengler and many others, his Bruckner 8/9CD 1944 has an 88mm Flak going off in it! It is on Archipel.

            http://tahra.com/catalogue.php?search_field=pavtpa.id_productsattribute%3D2&content=catalogue&cle_second_parent=id_productscategorie&id_productscategorie=1&search_data=104&submit_rechercher=Search

            Historical sound is not all Charlie Chaplin gaslight! Opus Kura is another good label, but the inserts are all in incomprehensible Japanese!. They got tapes from Red-White Red radio Vienna during the US occupation which ended up on Toshiba and were never released outside Japan as the US blocked it. Now they are coming to light.

  19. Polly says:

    Ah, Karajan. The Henry Ford of conductors. At least for once I don’t care who has the ashes. (N.B. this has nothing to do with the man himself or his affiliation to the Nazis. I disliked his work long before I knew anything about him as a person. Have made many honest attempts at trying to appreciate him but I can’t help hearing something in his sound that brings the word ‘ponce’ to mind. Do believe his early works were less awful than his later ones. And it’s nice to see that classical music’s being discussed.)

    1. Polly says:

      Should have written ‘affiliation with …’ some wicked fairy hovers round and makes me type incredibly badly on this site. Apologies.

    2. MJA says:

      “Ponce”? Interesting choice of word. Could you explain what you mean by it, please, Polly?

      1. Dave says:

        ‘Ponce’ usually means a gay man or a pimp.

      2. Polly says:

        It’s quite tactless of me to have said that, really, but it will pop unbidden into my head sometimes when I hear him. I think a more literate person than myself would be able to describe it as an audible something a bit tarted-up and too-brightly displayed, kept under firm control all the time, never allowed to be quite itself or to forget for a moment that it had better please – and earn for – The One in Charge. To my ear just too smooth, and a bit unnatural. Seymour put it much better with the ‘Mantovani’ metaphor! It was very kind of you to ask instead of just ignoring such a Philistine remark. It wasn’t meant in the gay sense at all. I should’ve said pimp. The sense of interfering with something that should be given freely, from the heart, and instead very calculatingly selling it for your own gain. Sorry I ramble so much!

  20. Sue says:

    @Robert Holmen:

    Idiot assumption. Kleiber was born in Berlin, was PROFOUNDLY well read and had many German friends in the music business. His father died in 1956, rejected by the Austrian musical fraternity probably because he abandoned Europe before WW2.

    1. Jerry says:

      Why was Gunter Wand called Tapping the Claret?

      1. Polly says:

        He thumped obstreperous musicians in the bugle when angered?

        Sorry. He did adverts for Mouton-Cadet back in the 80’s, if memory serves, didn’t he?

        Funny to think of Mouton-Cadet advertising. Even funnier to think of Wand doing so for them!

  21. How did Karajan keep his von? says:

    Following the Habsburgergesetz of 1919 (“Habsburg Law”), which legally dethroned, exiled and confiscated the properties of the Imperial House of Habsburg, the Adelsaufhebungsgesetz of 1919 (“Law on the Abolition of Nobility”) abolished nobility as well as all noble privileges, titles and names in Austria.

    In other monarchies of Europe, Austrian noble families may use their noble titles as well as aristocratic particles such as von and zu in their names and they still retain noble status there. For example, the name of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne became in Austria simply Karl Habsburg-Lothringen instead of Karl von Habsburg; in Belgium, however, he is known as Archduke Karl of Austria.

    This may sometimes be confusing, as descendants of nobles are sometimes referred to with noble names abroad. Also, members of noble families often hold multiple citizenships, as was the case for Otto von Habsburg (eldest son of the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary and father of Karl Habsburg-Lothringen), who was also a citizen of Germany.

    The Austrian law does not apply to artistic, performer or stage names, where von is sometimes used, as in the case of conductor Herbert von Karajan or the musician Hubert von Goisern. However, stage names are never recognized for official purposes.

    Interestingly a real conductor Felix Weingartner dropped his von as he thought it pretentious.

    1. Ronald says:

      Weingartner 1935 VPO Beethoven 9 is a classic, on several historic labels, Pearl Naxos, Preiser and that Jap label Opus Kura who claim they use minimum restoration without having to “tart up” the sound like Mantovani. He was the first to do a Beethoven cycle, mixed in London and Wien, he also composed stuff like King Lear Symphonic Poem and 7 Symphonies and lieder all worth hearing on you tube, boxed set of his stuff is on CPO label.

  22. Polly says:

    What a relief to know the sublime Weingartner is still appreciated. He captured the stupendous mystery of humans making music together, and of the composer being respected, not restricted. Few even really good conductors can manage that. He simply was everything a conductor really is; the nature of music ran right through him in a way Karajan couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams. I’ve always wondered how K. managed to outshine him in popularity, though thanks to Lebrecht and many here on Slipped Disc I’m finally learning that DG has much to do with it. What a waste. Deeply fascinating info. re. legal use of ‘Von’ – I’d no idea but am very glad to learn. How typical of the true artist to see through the pretentiousness and dismiss it, and of the arriviste desperate to impress to cling to it as substitute and show; cover for what was lacking. Many thanks for sharing your considerable knowledge and your extremely good taste!

    1. Cubs Fan says:

      For most of us throughout the world, the only way we get to know some piece of music, the orchestra, and the conductor is through recordings. Most of us don’t live in London, New York, or Berlin where orchestral concerts abound. I grew up on a ranch in the American southwest. I learned opera from the Met broadcasts and symphonic music from recordings. Music, especially orchestral, makes a better impression when the reproduction quality is high. That’s one reason – not the only – why Karajan scores so much over Furtwangler and Weingartner who didn’t live long enough to benefit from high fidelity recording. When I started studying music performance history those two conductors (and many more) became quite familiar. I collected Koussevitsky like a maniac- and the sound was never better than bad. Back in the 60s and 70s DG had excellent sound, fine pressings, and frankly HvK was quite reliable. I don’t understand the hatred some people here have. Mantovani? Three bars of Kleiber worth more than all of Karajan? Give me a break. You may not like his showmanship, his ego, his politics or whatever, but the man made some great, great recordings. The last Mahler 9th. Prokofieff 5th. Schoenberg Pelleas and Melisande. Unbeatable. My favorite conductor? Not at all; there are too many great ones to make a selection. You can’t stand HvK; I can’t stand Rattle.

      1. Polly says:

        What I said about Kleiber may sound over-the-top (bit of a gusher, me), but it’s how I feel. Any discussion of the arts is going to be objective. I believe I wrote about V.K.’s ego being, imho, audible in his extremely controlled and (imho again) Brylcreem-on-the-baton sound.

        It’s nothing to do with his whopping great ego in itself; if you take every egocentric artist out of the picture you end up with precious little art! Not a good thing. My childhood was spent around actors so I don’t confuse the personality with the work. When the personality affects the work to the detriment thereof (just my opinion, again), it’s different.

        It’s marvelous that the recordings and broadcasts you heard brought you to classical music. Sorry to keep dragging my own childhood into this, but it makes a difference because I grew up hearing everything from my grandparents’ old 78’s to what were then (in the ’70’s) new recordings and broadcasts. What most people consider ‘poor sound’ seemed natural to me and I frequently quite liked it. But I enjoyed all sorts of recordings, old and new, scratchy and clean. I was lucky to hear all that.

        Speaking for myself, I can only say that what I’ve written honestly has nothing to do with personality, politics, or hatred. I thoroughly dislike the V.K. sound, and I truly have tried to ‘educate’ myself into hearing what those who like him hear. My opinions are based solely on the fact that I do believe aspects of his personality adversely affected the music at times. Not all the time, but enough for me to find it very distracting.

        I think one of the reasons there’s such strong feeling about this is the fact that many people feel V.K. has been sort of hammered upon the public. Whatever the technical capabilities of DG, many of us … or so it seems to me … feel that they’re issuing/publicising/deifying V.K. to a degree where it’s almost at the expense of others. I probably shouldn’t have said that. And I expect most of it’s misspelled.

        The artist Sickert, who was also a delightful writer, said (I’m paraphrasing as I can’t remember the exact quote) that just because you love a new-born baby, you don’t feel the need to murder its grandmother. There’s room for all. I just happen to feel V.K. is given an excessive amount of space and spotlight.

        I’ve probably been much more voluble than I should have been; apologies. Unfortunately for the readers, my stumbling upon this discussion coincided with my finally admitting to myself that I don’t care how thick it makes me seem, I’ve finally got to come clean and just say what I feel about V.K. (It was writing an Amazon review, of all things, that made me ‘come out of the closet,’ so to speak). The relief of discovering that I wasn’t alone made me a bit giddy.

        I literally knew nothing about V.K. as a person – ego, politics, none of it – when I decided to use the internet to learn more about him. The intention was truly to ‘tune’ what I believed to be my cloth ears. It was such a relief to realize – for once! – that maybe I’m not completely idiotic! And it’s made me ridiculously happy to find that people haven’t forgotten – indeed still love and admire – Kleiber, Weingartner, Furtwaengler et al as you don’t hear much about them these days. (Hence part of the resentment among many at the DG over-milking of the V.K. cow.)

        It would be lovely if it were as simple as just not listening to him since I don’t like him. The thing is, I adore Dennis Brain which frequently equals having to hear V.K! That’s my choice, though.

        This is all about opinion and discussion and you certainly brought up some interesting points. Sorry about the steam I’ve blown off but the relief of learning I’m not a complete Philistine has been amazing!

      2. Polly says:

        Forgot to mention that I’m completely with you re. Rattle. He’s an embarrassment. But I’m going to try to connect a link you might find interesting. If it doesn’t work you can look up ‘Sir Simon Rattle on Karajan’ on youtube. Despite my dislike of Karajan’s sound (still, I’m afraid) and of Rattle, it’s interesting.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ceXbC9SF1E&t=316s
        Hope this works and that you enjoy!

  23. Richard Craig says:

    Cubsfan, a very commonsense and rationale comment.

  24. Pedro says:

    When there is a shortage of comments in this blog, its author just need to write any silly thing about Karajan to get the comfort he needs. Let me also bet that, 28 years after his death, NL ashes will weight 15 grams or less.

  25. Polly says:

    Take Karajan completely out of the picture and I’d still find this disturbing.

    It’s possibly not about Karajan at all.

    It’s glut. There’s something sickening about this much of anything.

    I think I would find an equal amount of my favourite artists’ work just as nauseating. There’s something soul-destroying about it. And a bit creepy.

    It smacks somehow of ‘The Loved One’ (book is best but film gives the general idea). Starbucks, Vegas, Hollywood.

    Karajan fans, please bear in mind that I speak strictly of the number of recordings, issues and re-issues, and particularly of this set. The amount, not the person.

    Sir Thomas Allen once said ‘Our senses have become diminished.’

    How ironic that the classical music recording industry is itself playing a part in that diminishing.

    I’m more grateful than words can say for the fact that wonderful recordings are available. The dedication that’s gone into producing them is humbling. They enrich life, they are vital, and the world needs them now more than ever.

    I just think it’s better if they’re not on steroids.

    Too much of anything ends up having all the savour and nutritional value of a battery hen’s egg.

    I don’t think art is some monumental edifice to be crammed like a goose being fattened for pate.

    The fact that I find this set dispiriting is of course merely my opinion, and not really worth tuppence nor time.

    There’s just so much of almost everything already.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      You’re quite right. And Karajan bears heavy responsibility for that, as I have documented in two books.

      1. Polly says:

        I don’t know what to say, mainly because I’m not certain I can trust my eyes. It must be I’m wearing some sort of ‘Tales of Hoffmann’ spectacles that are making me see a Norman Lebrecht response to something I wrote.

        If I’ve actually seen what I thought I saw: thank you. Thank you not only for this particular response but for taking the time and trouble to pay attention to what people write on Slipped Disc. It’s not as if you’re someone with a great deal of spare time on your hands, and for you to bother about your readers is simply remarkable.

        This is utterly bizarre, especially as I’ve just written to ‘The Spectator’ (literally within the last hour) in support of your piece about a new concert-hall for London! You are absolutely spot-on. That something so desperately needed should be handled in this way is a tragedy. If only the Queen’s Hall could be re-built. (I have this ridiculous idea that someone should compose a Requiem for her, though re-building would be infinitely preferable.)

        Though I took Karajan out of the picture in the above comment just to make a point, from what little I know, I completely agree with you about the part he played in this travesty. I greatly look forward to reading your books and shall do so soon.

        (By the way the letter to ‘The Spectator’ was written under my real name; ‘Polly’ was simply made up as I like anonymity on the internet. ‘Anonymity on the internet’ – there’s a prize-winning oxymoron!)

        Again I simply can’t express my thanks and gratitude sufficiently, Mr. Lebrecht. I admire your work so very much.

        There I was, utterly convinced I’m a complete simpleton. Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!

        Slipped Disc is marvelous, by the way.

        Keep fighting the good fight.

        With tremendous thanks and all best wishes.


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