Berlin Philharmonic makes amends to Harnoncourt

Berlin Philharmonic makes amends to Harnoncourt


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2014

They’ve named Nikolaus Harnonourt an honorary member of the orchestra.

Under Karajan, he was never allowed to conduct.

Since 1991, he has given 90 performances with the orch in Berlin and Salzburg. Release follows.

harnoncourt bphil

Berliner Philharmoniker Confer Honorary Membership on Nikolaus Harnoncourt



Before the acoustic rehearsal at the Vienna Musikverein last Friday, 7 March 2014, the

Berliner Philharmoniker welcomed Nikolaus Harnoncourt as an honorary member of the

orchestra in an expression of their gratitude.


Since Nikolaus Harnoncourt‘s belated debut at the conductor’s desk of the Berliner

Philharmoniker in 1991, he and the orchestra have presented 29 programmes in 90 concerts

together in Berlin and at the Easter Festival in Salzburg during the past 23 years.


In a brief speech orchestra board member Peter Riegelbauer declared: “You have given us a

new perspective on the works of the great masters of the 18th and 19th centuries. You have

always aroused our curiosity about the stylistic realities beyond the scores. We are greatly

indebted to you.”


  • Gwendolyn says:

    “Under Karajan, he was never allowed to conduct”

    Why not?

    • It’s all in The Maestro Myth.

    • Mike Earles says:

      Yet another example of the Nazi Dictatorship as perpetuated by Karajan. It is clear that “the K man” could not abide anyone who posed any kind of threat including poor old Furtwangler and Harnoncourt to name only two.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        Methinks the gentleman protests too much….. “Nazi Dictatorship as perpetuated by Karajan”. Really? Where is your evidence for such an outrageous assertion? The wearing of any symbols from the Third Reich was and is expressly forbidden under German law, the country is a state governed by the rule of law and in all his public utterances and interviews Karajan never once said or did anything which might be construed as sympathetic to what went on between the years of 1933 and 1945. Since he spent a good deal of his time on German territory as conductor for life of the Berlin Philharmonic, anybody reading your diatribe would be surprised to learn that no attempt was ever made to arrest him on charges of wishing to perpetuate a dictatorship. i suggest you moderate your language in future if you wish to be taken seriously.

        • Mike Earles says:

          I wish I could share with you the films of Bohm, Karajan and Schwarkopf in which one by one they all admit membership of the Nazi Party, others too no doubt. I did not infer any political dictatorship by Karajan but rather the manner in which he dominated and controlled his music scene so very much of which is a tainted legacy.

          • Alexander Hall says:

            What you are really saying, and if you had actually said this I wouldn’t have taken so much objection to what you actually said, is that Karajan was a lothsome character because of his love of power and money. But that human characteristic has nothing to do with any period in history. Indeed, you can find examples of megalomania even today in the way some musicians continue to build empires, one of whom rattles his way around the world’s great orchestras and has his new musical palaces funded by his bosom buddy in a political palace. And leaving aside artists, this insatiable greed can be found in the banking community very close to home. Musicians are not necessarily “better” human beings, and they are prey to the temptations of the flesh and the delights of a groaning bank account as much as anybody else. There is, however, a sense of revulsion towards material success in some quarters which suggests misplaced moral superiority to me. If you are the world’s most successful living writer of musicals, for instance, why shouldn’t you be able to enjoy your millions? Who said that artists always have to be poor?

      • Beaumont says:

        So, a music director of an orchestra deciding which conductor may / may not conduct the orchestra s/he is responsible for constitutes “Nazi Dictatorship”?!

        Did you go cold turkey off your Prozac, or do you really not know what “Nazi Dictatorship” entailed?

      • Ken Anderson says:

        You’ve got that completely the wrong way round: it was Furtwängler who thought that Karajan posed a threat to him. I believe that apart from pre-war appearances, HvK was prevented from conducting the Berlin Philharmonic until after Furtwängler’s death. Walter Legge had good relations with both men but his attempt to mediate was not successful.

        HvK himself was puzzled and hurt by Furtwängler’s hostility. I read somewhere (Osborne’s biography?) that perhaps this partly accounted for the fact that later on, Karajan made a point of generously encouraging many talented younger conductors.

        • Beaumont says:

          My dear Sir,

          I didn’t get anything wrong – I have long since given up trying to figure out artists’ foibles and jealousies.

          I only object to the inflationary use of the terms Nazi and Fascist – it slowly but surely invalidates what these words stand for.

          • Ken Anderson says:

            Dear Beaumont, my comment was not addressed to you but was in reply to Mike Earles. I am in agreement with your own contributions.

    • Peter Heisler says:

      Karajan kept certain conductors away from the BPO whenever he could. The list included Bernstein, Celibidache, Carlos Kleiber, Hans Knappertsbusch among others.

    • Peter Heisler says:

      Karajan did not allow Harnoncourt, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Celibidache or Knappertsbusch to conduct the BPO. It was probably professional jealousy.

  • … read also Klaus Umbach’s still hilarious ‘Geldschein-Sonate – Das Millionenspiel mit der Klassik’!

  • robcat2075 says:

    What is an “acoustic rehearsal” and how does it differ from a rehearsal?

    • Norm says:

      I assume that what is meant is a (short) rehearsal solely to adjust to the acoustics of the new venue.

      Such rehearsals are standard for touring orchestras, as they already know the music, and simply need to work out how it fits (so to speak) in a different room.

    • Jim says:

      they happen usually on tour to adjust to a hall

  • Valerio says:

    No need of hystorical proofs. Listen to the music. Autoritarianism is when Beethoven write bassons and Karajan played horns. It is to unilaterally decide that Music is only obsessive beauty and perfection mania because you think you can know and handle perfection. Well indeed Music, far more than collegues,has suffered from this Nazi way of conducting. Ask Chelidibache.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      I have news for you: Celibidache is no longer in the land of the living.

    • Mike Earles says:

      Well said, Valerio, albeit with humourous spelling and one can always listen to the recordings of the great Celibidache even if he “is no longer in the land of the living!”

    • Cambridge says:

      Playing horns instead of bassoons is an indication of Karajan’s Nazi tendencies? Hmm. I’ve heard some things in my time – that he single-handedly ruined the music industry and was solely responsible for the outbreak of the Second World War.. But this is a bit much!

      • Alexander Hall says:

        Cambridge, don’t worry: just as there are claques so there is a very embittered group of fanatics who think Karajan was the worst thing that ever happened to the music industry, never mind humankind. Given half a chance, they say, he’d have been world dictator. There’s no point trying to combat all this nonsense, you’ll never persuade them to the contrary. Instead, just enjoy some of the greatest recordings he helped to bring about. They can never take that away from us!

  • David Meyer says:

    Infer does not mean imply. Why do people use it when they mean imply? Is it because it sounds more impressive in some way?

  • Peter Heisler says:

    Karajan joined the Nazi party twice!