Why Karajan’s daughter devotes herself to Shostakovich

Isabel Karajan has been talking about directing a Shostakovich festival in Saxony this September. ‘My father said to me several times that if he had been a composer he would have written like Dmitri Shostakovich,’ she explains.

isabel von karajan

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  • One of the most memorable events for me as a very young teenaged listener over four decades ago was to hear Berlin Philharmonic led by HvK perform Dmitry Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony with the composer in the audience. It was my first time hearing them live in concert, and in my opinion they played brilliantly. During the well-deserved ovation, the visibly moved DS joined the conductor on stage but was seemingly more interested in thanking the Berliners and their Maestro than in his own bows. That whole situation seemed to make HvK quite emotional too. It was an unforgettable experience, to see those two musical giants together on stage, showing utmost respect to each other and their love for the music too!

  • The concert that I attended was definitely in Leningrad and I think it was in 1970 or 1971, but I am not sure about the date.

    • That must have been on 6/2/1969. Karajan only went to the USSR with the BP that one time, with three concerts in Moscow and two in Leningrad. I thought Shostakovich attended only the concert in Moscow, but apparently he came to the one in Leningrad, too. How did you get to hear that concert? Did you live in the USSR at the time? I heard it was nearly impossible to get tickets for those concerts. How did you get in? I watched an interview with Semyon Bychkov in which he said he tried to get in by climbing into the women’s toilet from the roof, but he was picked up by security…

      • Thanks for clarifying that date for my imperfect recollection. Fortunately for me, my parents had the right kind of connections and somehow were able to get those tickets. Needless to say, I was mesmerized by the quality of orchestral playing and by what seemed to be Karajan’s complete control of every detail. One moment in the performance stayed in my memory for all these years: when he apparently felt that the first fiddles were a fraction too loud, he lowered his left hand to the side of his left leg and made a small barely noticeable wave with his fingers down there – the entire first violin section got softer instantly. If my memory does not play tricks on me, Shostakovich was definitely there. He probably never heard his Tenth Symphony performed as flawlessly as the Berliners did, before or after.

  • I was astounded to be in the audience of HvK conducting Vth Symphony by Mahler in Pasadena Auditorium ~ 1978/9. I was 28/29, 3rd or 4th year doctoral student of ethnomusicology at the University of California at Los Angeles. As a musicologist (M.A) from Poland I knew of von Karajan’s unique conducting. His visit in Los Angeles, California was a magnet for me. His and his Orchestra’s art stay with me today.

    Barbara Kwiatkowska-Amerton
    Ethnomusicologist, Ph.D., 1981 UCLA
    Musicologist, M.A., 1975, Warsaw, Poland

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