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Herbert von Karajan and "The Ring of the Nibelung

"He made singers sing like instruments and instrumentalists play like singers"

"I'd rather scrub floors than work with that man again!"

Josephine Veasey (Fricka) after a recording session

Commanding the podium with his slender figure, theatrical shock of hair and penetrating blue eyes, Herbert von Karajan projected the hieratic image of the conductor as officiate of some quasi-mystic rite. And anyone who ever saw him conduct live or on his many audiovisual recordings will agree that in his performances, music did indeed become a religion and Karajan its high-priest.
Herbert von Karajan

Born in Salzburg, Austria, in 1908, he became the city's most famous son after Mozart. Raised in a cultivated musical environment, he studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg before entering the Vienna Music Academy.He made his conducting debut in 1928 and was appointed Germany's youngest general music director in Aachen in 1935. He made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1937 and at the Berlin State Opera in 1938. In 1955 he was appointed music director for life of the Berlin Philharmonic, which he honed into arguably the best orchestra in the world.

Simultaneously at the helm of the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival and the Berlin Philharmonic for a time, and closely connected to the Vienna Symphony, London Philharmonic Orchestra (which had been created especially for him) and Milan's La Scala, Karajan became known as the "General Music Director of Europe" from the 1950s to the 1970s. He towered over European musical life as no one had done before. Herbert von Karajan died in Salzburg on July 16, 1989.

Karajan embodied classical music in the general consciousness as an epoch-making conductor, media star, opera producer, festival director and festival founder. We won't see anyone of his grandeur any more, and we are grateful for all the music he gave us.