New online: Karajan is reduced to playing 3rd piano

New online: Karajan is reduced to playing 3rd piano


norman lebrecht

January 13, 2021

An excerpt from the incredibly tense 1971 performance of Mozart’s K242 with Christoph Eschenbach and Justus Frantz.



  • orlando says:

    It not a question of ‘being reduced’. The third part is relatively easy and therefore the most logical one for the person conducting. It’s often done that way.

  • RW2013 says:

    Something most of our current conducting “stars” could only dream of doing.

  • Lohengrin says:
    And here is Gergiev conducting the same piece from the piano.

    • Peter says:

      I’m amazed by difference: Three well-prepared pianists paying wonderful attention to each other and the orchestra, all playing from memory, compared to the Verbier recording: quasi sight-reading from imslp-copies and no homogeneity in sound.

  • Pedro says:

    He is also conducting the orchestra…


    Very interesting – thanks for posting. Refreshingly the camera doesn’t spend the entire time on Karajan!

  • Herr Doktor says:

    I didn’t know that Christoph Eschenbach *ever* had hair. And over-the-top hair at that!

    Otherwise, thanks for posting this – most enjoyable!

    • Herr Doktor says:

      On second look…I think he’s wearing a toupee. And not a good one either. There’s a moment where the camera is behind his head and it sure looks like that’s a rug.

      But hey, as the saying goes – go big or go home!

      • Alexander Hall says:

        No, the hair back then was genuine all right. I remember him appearing with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt in an elegant bouffant style of thatch in the late 60s and occasionally stroking the sides by way of underlining a musical point. Don’t forget that most men suffer hair loss as they get older: it’s all a combination of genes and high levels of testosterone.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Good they all playing from memory. That 80s London perf by Schiff, Barenboim and Georg Solti had them glued to their scores

    • Offspinner says:

      I have never understood the obsession with pianists playing from memory. What matters is the end result, not whether a score is used.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed. How do the memorization obsessives ever enjoy recordings? You have absolutely no guarantee the performers are playing from memory.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Questioner: “A lot of conductors don’t use the score. Why do you?”
        Klemperer: “Because I know how to read music.”

      • Emil says:

        Alexandre Tharaud got butchered a few years ago by a music critic in Montreal for using a score (which he always does). The critic was so incensed about the score he forgot to write anything about the playing itself.

    • John Kelly says:

      Maybe they could read music??

    • Jormaple says:

      Is that really to be praised ?…Richter would have read the score for sure. It’s just a matter of respect to the music…

  • #blm says:


    Biden won’t allow this anymore.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Did you have a fun time in DC in the coup attempt on January 6?

      • Karl says:

        Coup? With pipes, flags and fire extinguishers as weapons?

        • William Safford says:

          Insurrectionists used a fire extinguisher to murder a police officer.

          The seditionists also had guns, pipe bombs, and molotov cocktails. Several also had zip-ties, to tie up hostages.

          They also set up a noose and chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” after the Orange Enemy of the People denounced his Vice President to them.

        • Bill says:

          No one said you were smart, just deplorable.

        • HugoPreuss says:

          You mean the fire extinguisher that was used to murder the police officer?

      • H. L. Noor says:

        There was a nice diverse blend of blm and antifa bashing everything in. Funny thing is that most of the leftist filth are bored, white, PAID protesters with no integrity. So long as they have their drugs, munchies and tents they’ll do anything for the left.

        Since the right merely gather, respectfully March and actually clean up after themselves as a rule, it’s clear to everybody that the left did their usual damage disguised poorly as Trump supporters. The white busses the left used were obvious enough. Fortunately several got beaten up by Trump supporters as they pulled them away from the building.

        Looking at more than the 2 cameras and EDITED footage used by the msm destroys the common negative narrative the left clings to.

        Next Wednesday should be really fun when the Left gets a big taste of their own medicine

    • BruceB says:

      Come back often! We feed our trolls very generously here.

      • William Safford says:

        Trolls are annoying, I agree.

        I’m more concerned about the True Believers. They’re the ones who stormed the U.S. Capitol, murdered people, and attempted to attack or capture Congress and the Vice-President.

  • Jen says:

    ˋIncredibly tense how ?

    • David says:

      I agree 100%. It was just delightful. I do wonder what the incentive was to have the orchestra play form memory. I’d be tense if I was playing horn and had to memorize that, it would be miserable.

      The soloists were spectacular, just lovely.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Thanks for posting this – most enjoyable! I can’t quite see how Karajan is ‘reduced to playing third piano’. It would seem logical for him to do so as he has two brilliant young pianists playing with him and he is conducting. When Argerich plays second piano we don’t say she is ‘reduced’.

  • The bandersnatch says:

    As a Karajan fan I have already seen this as it has be available on YouTube and CD for awhile now

  • CYM says:

    All I can say, is that : as / 1- Piano Soloist, / 2- Conductor,
    / 3- Member of the Piano Trio, Karajan was likely to earn the highest fee.

    • Edgar Self says:

      It ran in the family. His brother had the Wolfgang von Karajan Orgel-Trio. The word Karajan was in conspicuously larger type on their posters.

  • Edgar Self says:

    On occasion Furtwaengler perormed with Kempff and others in Bach and Mozart multile keyboard concertos, and by himself in the Brandenburg Fifth. He also accompanied Elisabeth Schwrzkopf’s Hugo Wolf recital in Salzburg in 1953.

    Karajan accompanied Schwarzkopf in a recital in Algiers, played harpsichord continuo in Bach passions, and graduated from conservatory playing a concerto by Pancho Vladiguerov, “the greatest Bulgarian composer.”

    Mitropoulos, Andrew Litton, Walter Hendl, Bernstein, Leinsdorf, Solti, Bruno Walter, Erno von Dohnanyi, Bartok, Sawallisch, Prokofiev, Medtner, Rachmaninoff, D’Albert, Richard Strauss, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Lecuona, Shostakovich, Shchedrin, Gretchaninoff, Gyorgy Sviridov, Tilson Thomas, Svetlanov, Lukas Foss, Robert Heger, Alexander Tcherepnin, Stravinsky, Copland, Barber, Sessions, performed or recorded as pianists. Barber, Reynaldo Hahn, Sawallisch. and Georg Henschel recorded also as singers.

    Christoph Eschenbach indeed had his own long hair and poetic mien as a young man playing Schumann.

  • Just saying says:

    BWV 1065; Sawallisch, Rieger, Kempe, Kubelik in rehearsal (1972)
    Not sure which one is “reduced” here.

  • pjl says:

    I prefer Helmut Schmidt’s recording!

  • William Safford says:

    There is the recording of former (West) German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt playing third piano in this work, with Eschenbach and Frantz.

    Kudos to Schmidt for having the chops for holding his own.

    One can hardly imagine what hideous sounds the Orange Enemy of the People would make at a keyboard.

    On the other hand, other politicians have the chops to do like Schmidt. Just one example is former Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who performed solo piano in Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue with the South Bend (Indiana) Symphony several years ago.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thanks, William Safford, for the Buttigieg story, another point in his favor.

    We’ve talked about politicians in music Condoleeza Rice, Paderewski, Truman, Jan Pasaryk, Nixon, Mussolini, Nero, King David, Jefferson, B. Clinton, a British PM, a Danish king who conducted, a Japanese prince. Politics and music do sometimes mix. Others: Louis Farrakhan, Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ansel Adams, Carl Sandburg, Edward Teller, Thomas Mann, Henry VIII, Metternich, Joseph II, Archduke Rudolf.

  • Ana says:

    Thank you so much for this!

  • Jormaple says:

    Lebrecht…what reduction are you talking about?..somebody had to play 3rd!!…why not Karajan?..I’m rather more surprised with this almost unknown Frantz being there between those two greats.

  • JussiB says:

    who are the two handsome young men?