Salzburg admits it banned maestro for 20 years

A statement by the Salzburg Festival in tribute to Nikolaus Harnoncourt admits what had previously been denied with great vehemence – that the festival had accepted a demand by Herbert von Karajan that his former orchestral cellist should not conduct there in his lifetime.

Harnouncourt taught and performed at the Mozarteum from the 1970s but was not admitted to the Festival roster.

This was the official confession: 

The Mozarteum Foundation was also responsible for his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic. After all, Herbert von Karajan did not want him to appear at the Festival during his lifetime.

The Festival then goes on to blur the record:

Karajan and Harnoncourt – those were separate musical worlds. However, they did have one thing in common: they were both after truthfulness in music. Both remained seekers throughout their entire lifetimes, but their searches took radically different paths. 


Karajan eyes shut


harnoncourt lebrecht

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  • And why didn’t Karajan want Harnoncourt to conduct in the Salzburg Festival? Could it be that he felt threatened?

    • Well….. of course K felt threatened since H’s work is one big critique on K’s type of approach. With H, no egomania. H’s interpretations are much lighter and approached from the stylistic context of the time in which the music was written, i.e. smaller string groups in Beet and Brahms, and quicker tempi, while K always put lots of Wagner in his Beet and Brahms, expanding the sound and underlining the monumentality and greatness of the music. Yet, there is more intensity and depth in K’s interpretations and a better conducting technique. But he was a product of romanticism + 20C streamlined veneer. H is – probably, we can never be really sure – closer to the original character:

      The interesting thing is that the music leaves space for BOTH approaches, what K gets out of the scores is also there, which counts for the richness of possibilities embedded in the music. It is questionable, though, whether composers would not have preferred the acoustical roundness and lyricism which were cultivated later in the 19th century and beyond, to the probably rougher sound of their own time. The same question emerges as to the development of the piano: there have been sound reasons why the piano developed as it did, and listening to a Beet or Mozart piano concerto on a Hammerflügel is mostly a painfully unsatisfying experience. We know that Mozart preferred as many string players as possible in performance of his own symphonies, which were rarely available. So….

      • [[ listening to a Beet or Mozart piano concerto on a Hammerflügel is mostly a painfully unsatisfying experience]]

        For you, perhaps.

        For many of us, the sound of a Steinway D in a Mozart concerto is like driving a bulldozer through the Belvedere palace.

        But most mercantile people think a Steinway must be best – because it COSTS the most… and comes in shiny pukesome black lacquer finish, with three pedals for idiots who can’t play without them

          • Great to see a “musicologist” advocating the use of completely unauthentic instruments for Mozart.

            “Vile” isn’t the word, Golightly.

          • Let’s leave listeners to make their own minds up about what’s “vile”, shall we, Holly?

            * Mozart PC 20, D-Minor *

            Fortepiano, with period reproduction instruments. Ronald Brautigam.


            Steinway D, Seong-jin Cho, Tchaikovsky Competition, Moscow
            Seong-jin Cho

            Or perhaps listeners need a “musicologist” to tell them what to think??

        • Total bullshit.Mitsuko Uchida,Andras Schiff,or Maria Joao Pires,or the beloved Menahem Pressler sounding like a bulldozer?They make any Hammerfluegel sound like a honky tonk saloon piano in comparison….But i agree,this is a moot point,some people also prefer Kayne West to Fritz Wunderlich…

          • “Total bullshit”

            I see you’ve really mastered the nuances of this kind of discussion, Harold.

            And all of this in thread celebrating the career of Europe’s master of HIP practice.

            Don’t bother replying. Who would need more “‘bullshit” from you?????

            One thing which always amazes me about people who claim to love culture – is that in their lives, they show not the slightest evidence of culture whatsoever,

            Now come and amaze us with some more foul-mouthed garbage???

          • Holly Know-Slightly.

            The “musicologist” who just luuuuurves glossy black high-price concert grands!!

            Shows the kind “musicologist” she really is!! A complete know-thing charlatan.

          • And don’t forget Horowitz’s Mozart. Unless that also is considered a “Bulldozer” by the deaf and unimaginative anti-musical Talibans!

          • NH was an avid reader and follower of Josef Mertin. Read Mertin’s books and reflect about the term “Toleranz”, a term Josef Mertin uses very often (in musical context as well in general context), which teaches us what NH did in his entire life: never being dogmatic but at the contrary put all ideas and opinions under observation and never take them for “die absolute Wahrheit”.

          • That’s what I found most impressive about Harnoncourt’s work. Until the very end, he never stagnated into dogma; it seems he always rethought what he had done before. A good example for that is his late recording of the last Mozart symphonies with the Concentus Musicus which is quite different from his previous recordings of the same works with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Concertgebouworkest.

            Another recording – among many others – which left a deep impression on me is the Smetana Ma Vlast with the Wiener Philharmoniker which, unlike many other versions which are just a loose collection of 6 musical postcards, brings them all under one big narrative arch. I remember when I got the CD, I just wanted to sample the beginning quickly and then listen to the whole thing later, but the performance is so compelling and coherent from the very first notes on, I couldn’t stop listening until the whole cycle was over…

            It was also fascinating to hear him conduct all the Brahms symphonies in Berlin in the early 90s, right after I had heard them all with Karajan and then with Abbado.

          • Very interesting what Mr. Luisi wrote. Then Celibidache would have been NH’s biggest antithesis, not HvK, since Celi always claimed to be in possession of the “absolute truth”, or at least being the most enlightened among all on the path leading to it…
            I do not recall HvK ever talking about “truth”, only heard him talking about beauty.

        • Eddie Mars I am confused of your statements here. If you refer NH as “Europe’s master of HIP practice.” he would’ve most like scoffed at you. Harnoncourt was certainly never a HIP purist like Roger Norrington and his Concentus Wien players even used sparing vibratos in their performances. NH used his HIP research as means of opening up new possibilities of playing and interpretation, never an end. Someone else mentioned he has no issue with Steinway pianos, not sure if you overlooked his statement. And if playing Bach on Steinways is heretical, what say you of him conducting COE, Berlin and Vienna Phil modern orchestras? >_>

          • I didn’t say he never used Steinway pianos. So what if he did?

            Looks like you are only here to make trouble. Mishugina

        • Mr.Mars,stay happy in your small matchbox Weltbild of how music”must”be performed,just by following rules set up by musocologists.And stay happy with your Ayatollah like Fundamentalisten beliefs that Mozart before historically informed practice was performed by musical illiterates,until people like you showed us the only legitimate way to performance it.It doesn’t stop me from enjoying Brendel’s,Argerich’s,Pires or Uchida and Schiff’s performances d-minor concertos far more than the bland,legatoless,colorless Brautigam performance. And i don’t give a shit on which instrument it is performed.But who am I,having tasted the forbidden taste of Mozart performances(live!) by Rubinstein,Serkin,Stern,Grumiaux,Szeryng,Stern,Abbado,Krips,Bernstein, Karajan,Boehm,Tennstedt,Janowitz and others….. Having said that, I admire both Karajan and Harnoncourt,for both were brillant, fascinating,genuine,musicians and larger than life personalities…..We live todayin a smaller than life musical world…

          • Bullshit Braun, back for another punch-up are you??

            Another thug, who just likes to open his foul ignorant mouth with swearing and cusses, when talking about “culture”.

            And you “don’t give a shit”.

            Do you have some kind of coprophiliac obsession, Braun? You keep telling us about shit??

            Try learning some manners, Braunscheisse. Because ‘shit’ is all you know.

    • Dear Richard!

      I am sorry to see your topic has been swarmed by SD’s resident trolls. Please persevere, because we need more genuine experts like yourself on these boards! Particularly since you are keeping your mentor NH’s work alive in your own career.

      I still have happy memories of playing Renaissance consort music with you in the grim concrete basement of Morley College in the 1980s :)) I’m delighted to see your career has blossomed so finely – congrats!

      Let’s hope that the Music Muggles and their Bach-on-Steinways bunkum are eventually trapped in their own backfiring horcruxes 😉

      • Mr.Mars,with due respect,considering your last pathological outburst….I think you should look for some professional help…

        • You need to try drinking less.

          Then you need to apologise to the users of these forums for your disgusting behaviour, vicious aggression to other members, and your foul language.

          You’re not in the public toilets at the market now, Braun.

        • There’s not much that can be done about “stupid” – even the best psychiatrists wrestle with that one!

          • Very true, Harold and Holly. Eddie usually starts with one (usually) considered comment, and then, as soon as someone disagrees with him, he goes from ranting and raving to totally bonkers in couple of heartbeats. It has always been so, and there is nothing to be done about it here — except ignore him. One shouldn’t encourage such people by engaging with them.

          • Well,poor Eddie seems to dish it out but can´t take it….that he has still to learn…

          • And is that how you believe this discussion should be held, Harold?

            Other users are supposed to “take it” – when your sole contribution to ideas is to cry “bullshit! bullshit! bullshit!” ??

            I’ve never heard of “Steven Holloway” before here. Another sock-puppet like ‘Meshugina’ – here for a punch-up.

            I’m quite busy with actual music-making today… so I regret I’ll have to leave your potty-mouthed name-calling for the moderators to deal with, as I will be off line.

            Do please feel free to write another stream of splenetic Tourette’s Syndrome ad hominem foul-mouthed abuse, though? Every time you make a fool of yourself writing “shit! shit! shit!” you simply destroy any residual credibility of your posts name-dropping famous conductors.

            I’ll leave the last word to you, since I have now left this particular discussion. Nothing to learn here – from a shitmonger.

            “Honky-Tonk Piano”??? You’re laughable, Harold.


    • I thought he only registered once – you can sell your soul to the devil ony one time. But it was at the time of complete civilizational breakdown, and K would have sold his grandma to get a position anywhere, knowing the alternative. Existential fear turns some people into jungle animals (as we can see nowadays on the news on a regular basis).

      It is no excuse but in the end, it helped K to get the opportunities to greatly contribute to musical culture. It is regrettable he never really explained the why and how – probably he simply did not know how to do it without damaging his image, merely hoping people would forget it in the shadow of his achievements. This would also explain his overdone personal promotion efforts: pumping-up the ‘maestro image’ to gigantic proportions so that this ‘little’ but painful blemish would, in comparison, not draw too much attention.

      • The only legacy HvK left to the musical world I can see was a breakthrough to a completely new level of commercialisation in classical music. But even this has not really survived, as one can see in the dwindling importance of classical music to the general population. In HvK’s days he was a superstar and a household name even for people who never spent a minute in their lives listening to anything classical. But as far as his musical aesthetics go, they are as dead as a dodo. If you don’t believe me, watch one of his countless spooky Telemondial videos with their frightening Riefenstahl like pictures.
        NH on the other hand really changed our approach to the music of the past and maybe even to music in general once and for all. He was neither the first nor the only one with this mindset, but certainly the most influential up to now.

        • Alas, there is no garantee that also NH’s achievements will not evaporate like HvK’s.

          And as for HvK’s recordings: they demonstrate, not occasionaly but often, great performance and great interpretation, whether you like the approach or not. K’s Parsifal and Götterdämmerung are fantastic, and his Wagnerized Brahms II (with the Berliner) quite stirring, as is his Mahler IX (esp. the 1st mvt). And so on. It is nonsensical to claim one approach as definite.

          Which does not mean I don’t prefer the lighter and more authentic approach, as most conductors nowadays seem to have accepted as a general line. But occasionally it is a great experience to have HvK’s grand sweep have its way, he had the ability to let the overreaching arch of the music’s structure come across very convincingly. If K had listened to H and taken-over some of his ways, maybe the result would have been something like Van Zweden who combines the best of both, or Salinen.

          • NH’s great achievement was to bring the thinking and understanding of music from an historical angle out of some esoteric connaisseur’s circles to the mainstream of classical music. This will certainly keep evolving in directions we cannot forsee, but there is no way how it could “evaporate” again. You can’t get toothpaste back into the tube.

        • “NH on the other hand really changed our approach to the music of the past and maybe even to music in general once and for all. He was neither the first nor the only one with this mindset, but certainly the most influential up to now.” I completely agree, but the question lingers in my mind, for better or for worse? I think we are dealing here with the eternal problem of the letter vs. the spirit (of the music, in our case). The so called “authentic performance practice” is all about the letter, I’m afraid. With all due respect for the deceased.

          • To me it seems quite the other way round: before HIP a quarter note was a quarter note, a dot was a dot, and so on, regardless of the stylistic context and the conventions of the time a piece was composed. So the “letter” was certainly more important than the “spirit”. This disinterest in historical knowledge went together with the notion that the personal tastes and whims of the conductor are paramount. A sort of musical “Regietheater”, with the same possibility of striking performances in some lucky cases. But in spite of this I see it as a basically faulty concept, because within it the interpreter is in principle more important than the creator of the work. To have this challenged successfully on a global scale is NH’s great achievement in my eyes.

          • A bit of confusion here:

            “…. before HIP a quarter note was a quarter note, a dot was a dot, and so on, regardless of the stylistic context and the conventions of the time a piece was composed. So the “letter” was certainly more important than the “spirit”. This disinterest in historical knowledge went together with the notion that the personal tastes and whims of the conductor are paramount.”

            It is not true that before HIP stylistic context was ignored. There are stylistically-correct recordings of Mozart, for instance, by Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra (they belong to the best recordings of that repertoire EVER), where stylistic context has been understood solely from the score, as one can also hear from earlier conductors like Toscanini, Walter and Mengelberg. Muti’s early Mozart opera recordings and performances are ENTIRELY convincing in terms of stylistic accuracy – not based upon HIP knowledge maybe, but upon a thorough understanding of the style of the music. Those people were not ignorati, it is a myth that only HIP has revealed stylistically ‘true’ performance. And if you hear many of the regular HIPsters which cover-up their lack of musicality with so-called ‘authentic’ mannerism, the fakeness of those performances is staggering (short, hard-edged closures, sharp ugly sound without any vibrato, no melodic lines and no expression because that was ‘romantic’). All ‘early music’ strove after expression, and Mozart was considered ‘romantic’ in his own time.

          • [[ To me it seems quite the other way round: before HIP a quarter note was a quarter note, a dot was a dot, and so on, regardless of the stylistic context and the conventions of the time a piece was composed.]]

            Well, partly ;))

            Handel (cited in Hogwood’s biog of the composer) used to tell an amusing anecdote about his time in Venice. His opera had been the hit of the festival, and led to commissions for orchestral music for noble families. For one such commission, Handel was at first annoyed to find that his music would be in second place – but he cheered up when he heard that pride of place went to Corelli, whom he greatly admired, and had hoped to meet in Italy. Handel decided to write a French Suite – so as not to “compete” with the Italian music of his venerable colleague. But at the (only) rehearsal, the orchestra couldn’t play the French rhythms…. because there was a *convention* to play French rhythms “a la Francais”, and not “as written”. Handel became irate that the fools coulnd’t play it, and time was running short. He got up from the harpsichord, siezed the Leader’s violin, and played the opening phrases (ie double-dotted, and double-double-dotted, with “skyrocket” upward scales in 32th-notes). Saying “there! you old goat! that’s the right way!”. After the rehearsal Handel realised he had been over-rude to the violinist, who had quickly grasped the idea once shown. “Thank you!” he said. “All is well, now, Sir! Tell me, will you stay to hear Corelli’s rehearsal?”

            “Indeed I shall, Sir”, replied Corelli.

            Moral. If the best musicians of the age could get written rhythms so very wrong in performance… then how much are we missing today, if we just play “what’s written”???

            And of course, ornamentation on repeats. Not just plonking in a trill here or there, but devising an entirely new melodic line inspired by the one written. Telemann famously published a ‘model’ flute sonata, in which he actually wrote-out what a ‘good’ player would add to melodic line – it’s entirely different. And what would an ‘excellent’ player have done?

            Need I mention Brandenburg III, central movt? There is no movement. The composer expected the players to improvise it entirely. Another example is Handel’s own keyboard improvisations during the orchestral playover of the aria “Va, fa guerra” in his premiere opera for London, RINALDO. The orchestral parts simply show vast numbers of blank bars – Handel, of course, improvised the whole thing. And differently every evening of the run, One version of what he probably played (perhaps a compilation of different evenings?) was issued by a pirate publisher (allegedly noted down by one of the orchestral players in the pit).

            Moral – if you’ve played ‘what’s written’, you’ve probably played it wrongly ;)) Especially on repeats. May a curse descend upon the fools who think “section one loud, then pianissimo on the repeat”. Such was never done in the C18th (except where marked by the composer).

    • If true it merely demonstrates that top ranking musicians are just like everybody else, no better and no worse. I didn’t like the whole demagoguery thing surrounding authoritarian conductors like Karajan and the “screaming skull”. It was always all about them, rather than the music.

      • So top-ranking musicians are all members of the Nazi Party?

        Oh really?

        The things we musicians learn from “musicologists”.

  • Karajan did his best to keep Solti and Bernstein away from the Berlin Phil and was largely successful. Donald Trump would probably describe him as a “Nasty Guy.”………………

  • Karajan kept others away too… not just Harnoncourt.

    Solti (I think???) never appeared while Karajan was in charge, and then suddenly did just after K died.

    K was nervous about letting Muti in to conduct in…1981 (?) cosi fan tutte and of course ultimately has made a great success of being there.

    • Was he really nervous about Muti? I was present when Muti conducted Don Pasquale there in 1972. If vK was “nervous”, would he have invited Muti back?

      • Of course not, and Muti has himself talked about that Così invitation. HvK wanted a yes or no. The pressure was on Muti. I can’t imagine that HvK was “nervous” — but then again he was filling Karl Böhm’s shoes!

    • Harnoncourt aside, Karajan’s avoidance of other star conductors at Salzburg is overstated. The Salzburg Festival website has an archive of old performances. Here are some facts:

      – Solti appeared in 1951, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1962, 1964, 1978, 1981, 1988-1996. Only concerts during Karajan’s lifetime. After Karajan’s death, however, he conducted there annually, and did some opera too.

      – Bernstein: 1959, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1987, only concert.

      – Muti: annual orchestral performances since 1972; opera for 8 seasons during Karajan’s lifetime (and later, of course)

      • Solti has been invited by Karajan namely to conduct the BPO at the Salzburg Easter Festival ( Bartók Music and Beethoven 3 ). I was there.

        On purely musical terms and in my opinion, Karajan the best conductor I have heard live with Böhm, Kleiber, Celibidache, Jochum, Bernstein and Sanderling ( speaking only of the dead ones ). I started to attend concerts in 1968 and missed Klemperer and Szell. I never enjoyed Solti, Giulini and Harnoncourt but tried hard to. My fault.

        • I heard Solti with the BP in the same program (Bartók – Beethoven) in Berlin. That was probably in 1986 or so. From then on, Solti came to Berlin regularly. He had guested with the orchestra a few times in the 60s and early 70s, I think.

      • there is so much wrong here! Karajan appreciated the young Abbado and Muti and both conducted in Salzburg – it’s true that he didn’t appreciate Harnoncourt as a conductor and many feel the same – H was an amazing musician like Barenboim in a different way but both no great conductors! We probably all agree that Kleiber was by far the most exciting and he mostly admired Karajan! He was there when K was rehearsing. K also invited Kleiber to conduct in Salzburg but he refused. You probably do not know the young Karajan, that was amazing and listen to early recoordings especially those Live! Sorry guys, Solti can ‘t compete here. No one conducted Meistersinger like he did (maybe Thielemann nowadays) and his Parsifal is sensational too. Karajan was one of the greatest next to Furtwaengler, Toscanini and Bernstein. The crown still goes to Carlos Kleiber but Harnoncourt was immensely important and has influenced music making since the 70ies.

        • To me it seems a far simpler story – Karajan could not tolerate a mere cellist who had played for him becoming a fine conductor. Especially since antipathy to Karajan’s own style lay at the heart of NH’s approach to music-making.

          • Certainly, Harnoncourt’s way with music must have been an abomination for Karajan, so he had every reason to keep him as far away as he could.

          • How do you know that, Mick? Did your buddy Herbert tell you what he thought about Harnoncourt’s interpretations? According to his wife Eliette, Karajan actually listened to some of his recordings with great interest, even though the style of interpretation was obviously not for him. I don’t know how reliable a source for this his wife is, but she is probably a better source than your speculations.

          • Karajan is known to have listen to recordings of other conductors quite often. That does not tell us anything about whether or not he liked what he heard. I don’t suppose your “buddy” Eliette told you what he felt about H’s performances either.

          • Yes, she actually said the above in an interview. I don’t know if it’s true or if it was something she said after his death to “make peace” with Harnoncourt but it is certainly plausible, and it does come directly from his wife, whereas your comment was based on nothing but your own speculations.

          • Looks like we both agree that it’s close to impossible to establish the truth about their real feelings for each other, and that their styles were indeed diametrically opposite. So we can put the matter to rest for now.

          • Yes, while it is kind of interesting what kind of relationship these two very influential figures in the world of “classical” music had, it is also pointless to speculate about what they really thought of each other. I think the impressions one can gain from the interview with Harnoncourt that I linked to are quite sufficient.

            It is safe to say though that Eddie Mars’ suggestion that “antipathy towards Karajan’s style lay at the heart” of Harnoncourt’s music making is quite wrong. I don’t get the impression that Harnoncourt defined his approach as being any sort of “protest”, he just went his own way and arrived at different results, but he never felt the need to announce that others (like Karajan) were just totally wrong and that he was sent to demonstrate to mankind how it’s really done. That was more something that was read into his work by others, for their own agendas.

        • Karajan never invited Solti to conduct opera at Salzburg until the very end of his life because he thought he was too good (see “The Maestro Myth”)! As to putting Barenboim on the same level as Karajan – Von K must be turning in his grave!

          • These “levels” you are talking about, only exist in your mind. Karajan without a doubt made a lot of wonderful music and inspired many.
            But a real musician is only as good as he is in a given moment when someone else is listening. These “levels” don’t matter in that moment. If they do, you are a victim of brainwashing.

  • I’ve listened to recordings by both NH and HvK and enjoyed both.

    I’ve heard over the years, and primarily due to Slipped Disc of the manipulation of others by HvK, however my knowledge is lacking. Can someone recommend a source for a full report?

  • I’d like to think that Nikolaus would be chuckling at all this fussing and one-upping going on. I know I am. Surely he wasn’t as sniffy as some people here.

  • The long and short of it is: HvK could be nice, jovial and generous to people who accepted his overlordship, and vile and nasty to people who did not. Pity. I actually DO think HvK was a great conductor. Being generous to people who may have criticised him would not have hurt his career and might have given him a better name in the long run.

    • Word! People who don’t knew HvK offstage and in a secure private setting don’t know him at all but only his artifical public image. He shares this feature with many great so called “stars”. I wonder if he was a very insecure and ambiguous person after all, somewhere deep inside on a very personal level that almost nobody was allowed to experience…

  • @Gerhard, I think the first one to challenge that was Toscanini, whose performances are lovingly shaped with the greatest regard for the most tiny details of the score. Karajan was in many ways his successor. Their approach to me represents the almost perfect combination of the ingredients essential for the presentation that does justice to the great works. Naturally, there is no perfection in this world, but for me, the historic performance way just doesn’t lead anywhere, save for creating multiple copies of the same thing, devoid of any lifeblood and true inspiration. It is of course a huge topic difficult to discuss in short on here.

    • True….. The entire HIP movement is, by the way, an entirely modern, and sometimes, modernist trend, often reducing music to the sonic level. The matter of ‘authenticity’ is, by its nature, ambigious and can never be wholly nailed-down, because ‘authenticity’ means more than performing according to what we know about performance fashions at the time when the pieces were written. We should not forget that composers handle music with a certain level of abstraction, in the sense of disconnected from the actual sound, a ‘thinking-in-tones and connections’; it is quite possible that Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Berlioz etc. etc. were unhappy by the actual sound their orchestras made. We know that Bach’s works for ensemble could only be performed if led by himself, because they were too complex and ‘strange’ for the average music making of his days. Not to speak of Wagner’s endless attempts to get performances of his music ‘right’ with the players of his day, given the immense complexities and requirements he wrote; in his case he probably imagined himself quite another result from what his contemporaries were capable of producing. We know of Brahms that he approved of some quite different approaches of performing his symphonies and did not like the ‘strict’ and ‘classicist’ (pure?) rendering of Hans Richter. Also in that time, there was a discussion going-on about how to perform older music and how to approach new music.

      • Talking about “authenticity” by talking about the sonic producing side only, and not considering the other essential half for music to “happen”, the perceptive side, is pure idiocy in my opinion. You can be perfectly “authentic” on the maker side, but if you don’t have the authentic ears and mindsets of the period you can never achieve “authenticity”.

        Harnoncourt was aware of that, even though he could not really define it well by talking. He tried to understand and build the “authentic” connect on both sides, players and listeners, but was misunderstood mostly.

        • I think it is equally “idiotic” to think that music can only “happen” within the framework of your modern ears. To me, an English Suite of Bach on a grand German harpsichord, or a Beethoven sonata on a Broadwood fortepiano, “happens” much better than when played on a Steinway. It has more personality, the music sounds more vibrant, and you can hear the music in a way much closer to the way it was intended. That is probably because since quite young I have been fascinated by Ancient music (including Baroque, Renaissance and Medieval music), having studied harpsichord and bagpipes. My ears are used to a different soundscape than yours, and music played in that style on those instruments is very much “happening”, while the same music played on modern instruments just sounds different, weird, wrong.

          To me, playing Bach on a modern grand piano is the same as wanting to play a violin sonata on a flute. It is (up to an extent) possible, it will sound ok, the musicians can be absolute geniuses, but it just doesn’t feel right. Something in the overall atmosphere is lacking.

          • With a performer talented and understanding enough, he/she can produce all the musical effects of earlier instruments on a modern concert grand, given that it is an instrument capable of reacting to subtle nuances of toucher.

            We know that Beethoven was never happy with the pianos of his time – too small, too light, too tinky-tonky. His music for the piano often demands melodic lyricsm and legato expression impossible to produce on an ‘original’ Hammerflügel.

            Even the much later Pleyels suffer from tinky-tonky and lack of legato. A really good Steinway or Blüthner or Gaveau can produce the sounds that the scores obviously ask for, their range is so much wider than the earlier versions. That’s why the instrument developed at all.

            It’s different with baroque instruments, they have very different families and a very different performing context.

          • Now I learned something about your perception, because I listened to you. But were you listening to me actually?
            Problem is: people don’t listen…

          • John,
            I understand what you mean, but (surprise surprise) I don’t agree 🙂

            A modern musician on a modern instrument can try to imitate the HIP way of playing, but it will never be the same. The mere sound of the instrument is a vital part of that. You can’t possibly play as soft and velvetty on a violin with metal strings as you can on a gut strung violin with an adapted bow. Also the piano: you call it “honkey-tonk”, I call it the sound Beethoven knew. I give him and Mozart and all other composers credit for their abilities: they wrote their music so on the instruments available to them, it would sound as much as they want as possible. If Beethoven had had a modern grand piano, maybe he would have written less large chords. My general opinion is that if the music would have been written for modern instruments, they would have been written in a completely different way.

            I invite you to pick up the CD of the Beethoven symphonies with Anima Eterna. There is such detail and brillance in these recordings thanks to the use of gut strings and natural winds/brass, which I have never heard with any modern orchestra içn the same pieces.

            Glad you agree on the Baroque instruments 🙂

          • Tom, these are all your opinions and assumptions. We simply don’t know, how in a hypothetical scenario all the dead composers would resurrect and then give us their verdict, which of the available instruments of today – from historical replicas to modern instruments – they would prefer for their music for which purpose and size of audience.

            As far as Beethoven is concerned, I’m rather sure he would simply choose the instrument that is the loudest, which would today be a Steinway or Bösendorfer grand, because he could then actually hear it…

            If you ever work with living composers, you will be surprised how flexible and vague many of them in many situations are about the actual specific sound of an instrument.
            It was mentioned above already, that many of them hear their music on a more abstract level first of all, not in a synthesized aural virtual reality.

          • Peter, take Bach as an example. He “re-wrote” violin concerti for the harpsichord. He treated the harpsichord in a completely different way than the original violin part, and even adapted the accompanying orchestra parts in a way that it would sound more aesthetically pleasing. Vivaldi wrote his concerti according to the instrument(s) available at that point. His style of writing is completely different when he writes music for 2 violins, or for a recorder and a bassoon.
            I am quite convinced that composers knew very well what their instruments sound like, and wrote accordingly. As any modern composer would do as well. My composition class didn’t include 3 hours per week of orchestration and 1 hour per week of instrument morphology for nothing…

            So yes, I do think that if they would have know different instruments, the music they wrote would have been different as well.

            Modern composers (and this is the reason I quit my composing class) are much more “theory” based. They care less what it sounds like, as long as the maths behind it fall in place. This is not how Baroque music worked. Harmonic and stylistic rules were certainly applied, of course, but always to create something auditively pleasing in the first place. What the music sounded like was the main goal. Composers wrote their music to be played and listened to – in various degrees. Not to exhibit their mathematical genius.
            One exception: Bach. Some of his music is both aesthetic ánd functional/theoretic. And here as well I have to say that I am rather sure that his Kunst der Fuge was never intended to be actually performed. But that’s a different story.

          • Maybe, maybe not… Bach was very flexible and pragmatic when it came to the performance of his music. He had to be. That he rewrote and imitated himself in different instrumentations all the time was a pragmatic requirement to “produce” enough music in the limited 24/7 time he had while feeding a huge family and teaching and rehearsing.
            Also don’t forget that the further you go back in time, the less details composers had to notate regarding performance practice, since every local school was more stylistically homogeneous, performers simply “knew”. In today’s globalized musical world that is not the case anymore. Pockets of local performance and sound creation practices resist the “sonic mainstreaming”, e.g. Vienna Philharmonic…
            NH’s achievement is to reawaken our sensibilities to search in the context of the score and the composer’s life for clues how to perform it. Unfortunately he was also misunderstood by many who created new counter-dogmas on pillars instead of living musical creations.

      • I am not a big fan of Celibidache, but I completely agree with his rather well-known quote “Man versteht Musik night, man erlebt sie”. Furtwängler used to say similar things, to the effect that the way to judge a work of art is whether or not it is able to “tell us something about ourselves”. (Not to be name-dropping, but to avoid getting accused of not seeing a certain part of myself from a hole in the ground

        • When was the last time you really listened to a performance which you would label HIP? I remember quite well how I was taken aback when I listened to Harnoncourt’s performances for the first few times. But this was in the very early seventies of the last century. Are you sure your listening experiences in that field are really up to date?

          • You are making a valid point here and maybe I should have been more precise. I wouldn’t mind HIP quietly existing in their own little corner, as there would be no reason to talk about them so much then. Problem is, they extended their influence far beyond their original domain, and into how quite a few conductors do all kinds of music with big symphony orchestras, brainlessly copying HIP approach or applying parts of it even to music that could not by any stretch of imagination have any relation to HIP style. I have something to do with some of that music making, so it’s not just the listening experiences I’m talking about, it’s much more tangible I’m afraid, when something that just doesn’t feel right is being forced on you.

          • That’s not a valid criticism of “HIP” in general. Of course there are always people in every field and every sub-field who just brainlessly copy others and who deliver second and third rate performances but that applies to any kind of performance style and practice, “HIP”-influenced or not. I don’t quite understand what you mean by “profanation” and “things being forced on you that just don’t feel right”. Beyond your personal tastes and preferences, how do you know what is – or “feels” – “right” in specific music styles?

          • What “is” and what “feels” are of course two different things. Need I point out that I used only the term “feels”? So, naturally, I don’t know what is right, but I know quite well what I feel to be right (which is incidentally far from the HIP style).

          • I get that, but how is that in any way relevant for anybody other than yourself? And how do arrive at feeling this or that approach is “right”? Much of that has to do with the musical and cultural environment we have been brought up in, that automatically defines our “horizon”, and the whole point of “HIP” is to widen that horizon and give us a wider range of expressive tools, hopefully tools that are stylistically apt, to choose from but the artistic selection process stays largely intuitive, of course. But it is better informed intuition and interpretation if the artists understand the context better.
            It’s like reading literature from a different culture. Of course you can read Russian literature in translations, but you will only really get a deeper understanding of it if you learn Russian really well. It’s not *quite* the same with music and historical cultural contexts, of course but the process is similar in principle.

          • A difficult question…If I say something commonplace like the sunset or full moon or blue sky is beautiful, you can tell me that it concerns nobody else but myself, and maybe some other people feel those things are ugly. How do I “arrive” at my feelings? Perhaps I could answer you with a question, how do you arrive at the feeling that you are you, and that you can say “I” about yourself. Who is that “I”? Another illusion or subjective assumption? I guess it is that “I”, that somehow arrives at all our feelings and judgements, when they are genuine, that is. When they are not, you get HIP and a couple of brainwashed generations of listeners and indeed practicing musicians as well (luckily not all of them).

          • I think you are confusing two things here, and that is actually very common when it comes to this subject. There is the subjectivity of us hearing the music, how we perceive the musical “message” and what emotions and associations music triggers in us, that is a very complex and highly personal subject which is very difficult to understand and describe even for the specific individual. But “HIP” is not really concerned with that so much, if at all.

            Then there are the elements from which the musical “message” is constructed. What and how these elements are used is still a very complex subject, but there are parameters which can be described to some degree, and the sum of those parameters is what we sometimes call “style”. The whole point of “HIP” is to get a more complex and coherent understanding of the style in which a piece of music was conceived, how much information we can gather about that from the musical notation alone, and how much we can possibly infer from contextual information.

            So the final “product” can potentially be a more stylistically complex and coherent rendition of the music than “just playing the notes” and, since nobody really ever plays “just the notes”, shaping the parameters beyond the written text according to what the performer intuitively feels to be “right” musically.
            That approach doesn’t change with “HIP”, it’s not something one can either take out of music making or “make objective” anyway, the performer’s intuition and (hopefully good) musical judgment are still necessary.

            The *difference* is that study of historical performance practice and cultural context can *inform* (hence the “I” in “HIP”) the performer and give him a wider and more nuanced range of expressive means to choose from. That’s really what it is all about. Just playing music that was composed a long time ago in a very different cultural context according to how we “feel” about it today is not per se “wrong”, it is one approach to historical works of art but it is by necessity very limited, while gaining an understanding of historical context and of a wider range of musical means of expression that was common at the time the music was written can indeed feel somewhat “alien” to us – but that is the whole point. When we encounter historical works of art, we can not help at first seeing them from our modern point of view – but we can also let them take us on a journey of exploration into past cultural worlds, and that for me is what makes “HIP” primarily interesting.

  • This thread is very amusing. Lots of the usual speculation and babbling (including Karajan’s NSDAP membership, of course, that has to be part of the program no matter if it applies to the subject under discussion or not). But mostly all just nonsense, people having big opinions but little to no background knowledge.

    Karajan actually supported Harnoncourt at the beginning of his career, and he was apparently also quite interested in his excursions into the world of period performance. They also got along personally quite well.
    It was mostly a very hostile press which made Harnoncourt the “anti-Karajan” which he himself had never wanted to be, and there was an incident in 1970s when Harnoncourt gave an interview to the magazine DER SPIEGEL in which, according to Harnconcourt, he was completely misquoted as saying “Karajan is a genius – when it comes to driving fast cars”. Which Karajan took as an uncalled-for personal insult. And that’s what destroyed the relationship. Harnoncourt also said that he suspected that it was more Karajan’s entourage which kept the relationship spoiled than Karajan himself.

    • Nice reading, mainly from the anecdotal point of view. I suppose now I’ve also got some “background knowledge”…

    • Very interesting. But NH says some very questionalbe things in this interview like; the length of a written note is not necessarily meant to be played like that, i.e. a note of 4 beats can be meant as a quarter note, the rest will sound in the imagination. That is nonsense: if notation has to be treated like that, why would composers try to notate their music precisely? Only in very special, exceptional cases with certain old traditions like the baroque french ouverture, one is allowed to deviate from the literal notation. But later music? Werktreue means: try to play how it is written. Where this creates problems, ad hoc decisions have to be made, in the awareness that they are provisional solutions to problems.

      Also NH questions whether performers are artists, are somehow creators. The practice of performing amply demonstrates that the performer is a co-author of the musical work, filling empty notes with actual life, without which the work does not exist. The closer the performer tries to realise what he suspects the composer has meant, so in an attitude of absolute service to the work, the more he is responsible for the existence of the music.

      • John, you are going too far with your argument on note values. I suppose notes inégales or the Viennese waltz are some of the exceptions you are referring to. But what about staccato?

    • So in fact, journalists destroyed what could have been a most fruitful artistic coexistence, if not even collaboration, due to their small minds. The insecure egos of artists like HvK absorbed the poison like a sponge. What’s new.

        • Yes, there is, Stephen. Many people who knew him pointed out that he appeared to be rather insecure even in later life when he had all the success anyone could ever want and that is why he surrounded himself with an entourage of yes-men. That is why he was very sensitive to slights, even just perceived ones, as with Harnoncourt and the infamous interview.
          Osborne’s biography is a very detailed narrative of Karajan’s life and work but it doesn’t really tell you much about the person. A much better book about that is Wolfgang Stresemann’s “Ein seltsamer Mann – Erinnerungen an Herbert von Karajan”. The author was Intendant of the BPhO 1959-1978 and then in the 80s, he was called out of retirement to put out the flames between Karajan and the orchestra. I also knew him personally. He was very old-school diplomatic but even he said that Karajan sometimes behaved in rather erratic ways because of his insecurity. Apparently, he even had a strong paranoid streak.
          That may have had to do with the fact that his road to success was a rather long and steep one. After his first years in the deepest province when his career didn’t seem to go anywhere and his antics during the NS era and the subsequent post-war denazification and professional ban period, he was already 40 when he finally achieved solid and lasting success with his work in London and Berlin. He apparently never forgot his early years and seemed to be in constant fear of some sort that it might all crumble again

          • This seems all very likely. K much liked to give master classes to students aspiring to become a conductor, where he was said to be very supportive and kind, obviously enjoying himself quite much. When asked why he would spend so much time on such classes, which he did not need to do, he said that he suffered a lot when young and hoped that gifted young conductors would not have such hard career beginnings as he had had.

        • In addition to the informative post of Michael Schaffer, psychological personality traits, behavior issues, neurosis or even psychotic tendencies like this almost in all cases are due to the childhood environment, combined with genetic predispositions.

          So anybody trying to explain such character traits from the professional life alone is usually looking in the wrong place.

          • Probably true, but there is really no point in over-psychologizing this. There are probably many, many factor such as the ones you mentioned which play into this, as well as later life experiences.
            It probably didn’t help that Karajan started his career in Ulm in 1929, the year the Great Depression began and in which the German economy almost completely collapsed. I think the effects this had on German society as a whole and the resurgence of extremism are well known. So he found himself in this bottom-of-the-ladder post in a country in which 1/3 of the population was unemployed and that had devastating (if temporary) effects on the cultural life, too. Even the BPhO, actually essentially a private business at the time, almost went out of business (which made it easier for Goebbels to step in and “save” the orchestra). I have no problem believing that Karajan may have suffered from some pretty massive existential fears during that period, and that may have caused some lasting damage.
            But, like I said, there is really no point in “over-psychologizing” here. When it comes to personalities who have had as much of an impact in their specific fields as Karajan had, it is of course kind of interesting to learn a little more about what kind of persons they were, what shaped them, what drove their artistic and political decisions etc.
            But we shouldn’t overestimate what we can really learn from a few biographical facts and some background information and at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s all that dramatically relevant either.

  • Actually,this is so sad…Harnoncourt always spoke highly about Karajan,and how much he admired him as a conductor when playing under him…Harnoncourt said,Karajan considered it as some kind of betrayal that Harnoncourt left the Orchestra and founded his own ensemble…

      • You´re right.But your link also confirms that Harnoncourt valued Karajan very highgly,and didn´t speak badly about him.They went different directions,but Harnoncourt never questioned Karajan´s superlative gift of conducting.Maybe they sit together now,up there,talking,settling out things….

  • What do you think of Harnoncourt’s Beethoven 9th? I consider it one of his rare failures, lacking in power of conception and engagement – and in the Finale by all concerned, not least the choir.

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