Karajan, Herbert Ritter von, born 05-04-1908 in Salzburg, Austria-Hungary, as Heribert Ritter von Karajan.
He was a child prodigy at the piano. From 1916 to 1926, he studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, where he was encouraged to concentrate on conducting by his teacher, who detected his exceptional promise in that regard. In 1929, he conducted Salome at the Festspielhaus in Salzburg and from 1929 to 1934 Karajan served as first Kapellmeister at the Stadttheater in Ulm. In 1933 Karajan made his conducting debut at the Salzburg Festival with the Walpurgisnacht Scene in Max Reinhardt’s production of Faust. It was also in 1933 that von Karajan became a member of the Nazi party, a fact for which he would later be criticized. In Salzburg in 1934, Karajan led the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time, and from 1934 to 1941, he was engaged to conduct operatic and symphony-orchestra concerts at the Theater Aachen.Karajan’s career was given a significant boost in 1935 when he was appointed Germany’s youngest Generalmusikdirektor
and performed as a guest conductor in Bucharest, Brussels, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Paris In 1937 Karajan made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Berlin State Opera, conducting Fidelio. He then enjoyed a major success at the State Opera with Tristan und Isolde, Hitler’s (see Hitler
) (did you know
) favorite opera. In 1938, his performance there of the opera was hailed by a Berlin critic as Das Wunder Karajan, the Karajan miracle. The critic asserted that Karajan’s “success with Richard Wagner’s
demanding work Tristan und Isolde sets himself alongside Wilhelm Furtwängler
and Victor de Sabata,
the greatest opera conductors in Germany at the present time”. Sabata died of a heart disease age 75, on 11-12-1967. Receiving a contract with Deutsche Grammophon that same year, Karajan made the first of numerous recordings, conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin in the overture to The Magic Flute. On 26-07-1938, he married operetta singer Elmy Holgerloef. They divorced in 1942. Karajan joined the Nazi Party in Salzburg on 8 April 1933, five years before the Anschluss, Union between Austria and Germany ; his membership number was 1.607.525. In June the Nazi Party was outlawed by the Austrian government. Despite his popularity, he opened his concerts with the Nazi favorite SA Sturmfüher, Horst Wessel
, Adolf Hitler, a dictator with pretensions to artistic taste, did not appreciate Karajan’s performance of Die Meistersinger on 02-06-1939, according to Winifred Wagner
, a descendant of the famous composer because Karajan, who was conducting without a score, lost his way, the singers halted and the curtain was rung down in confusion. According to Wagner, Hitler decided that Karajan was not ever to conduct at the annual Bayreuth festival. However, as a favorite Nazi number 2, of Hermann Goering
(did you know
) he would continue his work as conductor of the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera, where he would accompany about 150 opera performances in total. On 22-10-1942, at the height of the war, Karajan married Anna Maria “Anita” Sauest, born Gütermann. She was the daughter of a well-known manufacturer of yarn for sewing machines. Having had a Jewish grandfather, she was considered a Vierteljüdin, one-quarter Jewish woman. By 1944, Karajan was, according to his own account losing favor with the Nazi leadership, but he still conducted concerts in wartime Berlin on 18-02-1945. A short time later, in the closing stages of the war, he and Anita fled Germany for Milan, relocating with the assistance of Victor de Sabata. Karajan and Anita divorced in 1958. Karajan was discharged by the Austrian denazification examining board on 18 March 1946, and resumed his conducting career shortly thereafter. Karajan seemed to have opted instead for an all-purpose, highly refined, lacquered, calculatedly voluptuous sound that could be applied, with the stylistic modifications he deemed appropriate, to Bach and Puccini, Mozart and Mahler, Beethoven and Wagner, Schumann and Stravinsky … many of his performances had a prefabricated, artificial quality that those of Toscanini, Furtwängler, and others never had… most of Karajan’s records are exaggeratedly polished, a sort of sonic counterpart to the films and photographs of Leni Riefenstahl
. Karajan’s membership in the Nazi Party and increasingly prominent career in Germany from 1933 to 1945 cast him in an uncomplimentary light after the war. While Karajan’s defenders have argued that he joined the Nazis only to advance his own career, critics have pointed out that other prominent conductors, fled from fascist Europe at the time.
Death and burial ground of Karajan, Herbert Ritter von.
Von Karajan died of heart failure, age 81 on 16-07-1989, in Anif and is buried on the Stadtfriedhof of Anif, a suburb of Salzburg.