Herbert von Karajan- Maestro for the Screen
Documentary [52:00] Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major BWV 1048 Suite No. 2 in B minor BWV 1067 [32:00]
Documentary co-produced by BFMI, RBB, BR and ARTE in 2008. Concert produced by UNITEL in 1968 (Suite No. 2) and 1967 (Brandenburg Concerto No. 3)
Mastered from HD Source; Picture Format:16.9; PCM Stereo; Region Code 0 worldwide. C MAJOR 737704 DVD [84:00]
What a monumental ego was Herbert von Karajan, arrogant, talented, complex, complicated and ultra-confident - a man who never shrank from self-publicity. In the UK to conduct and record for Columbia in the 1950s he eschewed all the music of his host country – Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Delius – all except Holst’s The Planets and that one might imagine because Holst had at one time, before anti-German sentiments of World War I, been called von Holst.
Karajan was always interested in technology, flying and driving fast cars - an enthusiasm he shared with renowned British horn-player Dennis Brain. During a visit to Japan with the Berlin orchestra he became aware of the potential of television. Without hesitation he embraced the possibilities of the medium and set out not only to acquaint himself with every artistic and technical aspect of television but to develop a visual presentation with special lighting effects and camera movements always spotlighting himself as the star. Initially he relied on such directing luminaries as Henri-Georges Clouzot and Hugo Niebling. Karajan, ever in total control, ‘took over responsibility for every detail’, even founding his own TV production company, Telemondial.
This video shows the maestro in rehearsal, in concert and with personalities like Clouzot. Karajan is constantly to the fore. When it comes to the two Bach works in TV concert, the unremitting pictures of Karajan in close-up tend to become just too much. One wearies and begins to wonder who is paramount here - Bach or the maestro. Having said all this, I was touched by the video footage of a withered Karajan, filmed not long before he died, conducting Johann Strauss II with quite breath-taking beauty for a New Year’s concert in Vienna. He must have known this would be his first and his last.