Herbert von Karajan, "Europe's Music Director" - b. 1908
, d. 1989
A slender figure with a shock of wild hair, back to the audience and passionately gesticulating - Karajan was the archetype of the great conductor.
Karajan was born in Salzburg, and became that city's most beloved son after Mozart himself. As a child, he studied music at the Mozarteum, and then later the Vienna Music Academy. In 1928 (at the age of 20) he made his debut and became the chief conductor in Ulm, Germany - interestingly, this is the city where Einstein was born. Soon, in 1935, Karajan moved on to become chief conductor in the larger city of Aachen, where he was also appointed the title of music director for the whole of Germany.
In 1955, He received the directorship of the Berlin Philharmonic for life. For the rest of his years, he turned this orchestra into what many would consider the finest in the world. By now, Karajan was in charge of the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony, and the London Philharmonia. It is cetainly worth noting here that the London Philharmonia was created expressly for Karajan.
It was at this point, and until the late 1970's, that there was a general feeling that Karajan was the music director for all of Europe. He was adored, and dominated European musical life.
Part of why Karajan's talent and work is so enduring to this day is that, in addition to his remarkable achievements, he made over 800 recordings, but also was very pioneering in making video recordings. He worked closely with Unitel and was visionary in capturing all his recordings, audio and video, on the most state-of-the art technology at the time. His video recordings were made in color before televisions could even display colour! His audio recordings were stereophonic before stereo broadcasts could be made - all in the interests of preserving his work for future generations.
His first video recording - the opera "La Boheme" which he wrote with Zeffirelli, marked the beginning of his long video recording career. Eventually, he captured 48 hours of musical performances on film.
Karajan's career is arguably that of the 20th cetury's most pre-eminent conductors, and his legacy lives on today in his finest orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic.