First release in any format! Not just a biographical film, — Karajan uncovers the true, personal essence of the unique — artist behind the public figure, a portrait of a man who was — full of contradictions and remained a mys... more »tery until his death.
On the occasion of the 100th birthday of Herbert von
Karajan, Academy Award® nominee Robert Dornhelm
has mined the archives of Unitel, for more than two decades
the great conductor s production home, for previously
unreleased material including rehearsal footage, and
interviews with members of the Karajan family, plus such
music world luminaries and colleagues as Anne-Sophie
Mutter, Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, René Kollo,
"Robert Dornhelm's 92 minute film on the late, great Herbert von Karajan is informative, beautiful and elegiacal. More than any other question, it addresses what made Karajan (arguably) the supreme conductor of his generation and one of the towering musical figures of the twentieth century. Much rehearsal footage is included, as well as incisive, on-point, commentary by Christa Ludwig, Gundula Janowitz, Helmut Schmidt, Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, Brigitte Fassbaender, Yevgeny Kissin, Rene Kollo, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and others (gratuitous flattery seems absent). Karajan himself talks a lot in interviews and interacting with orchestras in rehearsal, generating thereby a feel for his artistry, one so inextricably entwined with his personality that it was never a transferable "method."
Robert Dornhelm's documentary is beautiful to look at, organized more thematically than chronologically. It is not a biography, though biographical information is encompassed, including, i.a., his membership in the Nazi party and the row with the BPO over his appointment of Sabine Mayer as principal clarinetist. Karajan has said elsewhere that, earlier in his career, he aimed at a synhesis of the "objectivity" of a Toscanini and the passion and sponteneity of a Furtwangler; ironically, neither name is mentioned in the film. Nor is there any discussion of his involvement in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra (of which he was principal conductor), originally a recording orchestra formed by Walter Legge for EMI, a rival firm to Deutsche Grammaphon who issued the DVD, though ample mention is made of Karajan's affiliation not only with the Berlin Philharmonic, of course, but also with the Vienna Philharmonic and La Scala (of which he was also music director), all with DG affiliations. Karajan left the London post when he became principal conductor of the BPO upon Furtwangler's death. These suspect omissions are, however, more peculiar than crippling.
Most interesting is a whole section towards the end of the documentary juxtaposing the contrasting styles of Karajan and Leonard Bernstein (both DG artists, incidentally). It is really an illuminating sequence.
There's loving participation by Karajan's widow and their two daughters.
Hidden in the menu under the word "trailers" are extensive excerpts from released DVD Karajan performances, not truncated clips but whole excerpts, e.g. the final scene from Rheinegold, part of Brahms German Requiem, Jon Vickers doing Vesti la Giubba, von Suppé's Light Cavalry, etc.
Robert Dornhelm has put together an intelligent, beautiful documentary which will bring much repeated pleasure to anyone interested in 20th century classical music performance. Karajan is inescapable. The b&w rehearsal and concert film of Karajan and the Vienna Symphony (not the VPO) by Henri-Georges Clouzot is also warmly recommended.
I need to acknowledge that since I was a teenager I have been an admirer of Herbert von Karajan's work and have had the pleasure, indeed privilege, of seeing him perform live in concert, in the opera house, and as harpsichordist (!) with a chamber ensemble."
Now we're talking!
John Jeter | Arkansas | 05/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a professional conductor and have been a huge fan of Karajan for 40 years. This DVD should have been released 30 years ago! It would have made Karajan even more of a household name. Great documentary in every way. The best part is all of the never-before-seen footage that we all knew existed but for whatever reason took this long to release. Based on what we see here, there must be hundreds of hours of Karajan rehearsal footage just sitting in the vaults - PLEASE RELEASE THIS MATERIAL!!!!!!
If you are at all interested in Karajan, purchase this film. Sure, not EVERYTHING is covered but it paints a wonderful picture of a historically important conductor. Great release DG. More please, much more.
(I'll bet DG and Sony could release all of their Karajan DVD's with an extra companion disc of rehearsal footage of the works performed/recorded. People would love it!)
Thanks so much. "
Peter T. Wolf | lake forest, ca United States | 09/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this on TV last night. The producer and director of this program have created a Germanic tone poem (reminds me of Max Reinhardts 1936 movie 'Midsummers Night Dream') on film. Here are the sweeping vistas of fog covered German landscapes ( rivers, mountains, cities) with the music of Beethoven, Wagner, etc wafting in and out of the narration. Interspersed are interviews with Karajan, opera singers, musicians, and even a former German Chancellor. Then there are the terrific clips of Karajan's concerts and opera performances and the fascinating behind the scenes snippets of rehearsals where his drive for precision and exactitude reach the level of fanaticism. One hundred and ten percent German !! What I really liked about this film was the inclusion of Leonard Bernstein ( Karajan's contemporary and co-holder with Karajan of 'worlds greatest conductor' title) showing him at reherasals and performances illustrating the complete antipodal personalities of these two men. It was a wonderful contrast. The precise German machine and the fast and loose American inconoclast. Both at the peak of their abilities. Both world famous. And each arriving at music greatness through diametrically opposite methods. The only improvement I would make to this film is I wish they had allowed certain pieces of music to play out for just a few minutes longer to heighten the dramatic effect even more. They stopped certain pieces at exactly the point where, as a music lover, you are on the edge of your seat. But nevertheless this is a must have film for classical music fans."
Cieocom | Overton NE | 05/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Via a casual Amazon order I discover a dynamo, a mover/shaker of life not just incredibly beautiful music and its incomparable properties of beauty, understood by this guy so intensely and personally that he visibly conveys to the viewer this knowledge as you see his whole body jerking or moving in swooning motions to each piece conducted, especially sensed if one watches his muscular movements showing through the back of his black jacket as he conducts with immense ferocity and pure drive. I have gone back and searched out other pieces of music he conducted and find my heart equally touched in the quite delicate but piercing manner in this video that is hard to describe. And the odd thing is that people aren't forgetting him. They are not letting go of him. This is why this tells me this guy, this Karajan, is one for the ages. Karajan is so rich with spirit, so brim-filled with soul and energy, and vitality and life he absolutely needs two or three bodies to get his work done--we know he didn't die; it's just not in him to do so. He merely gave up a tired body that he pushed hard. In the video you can see in a subtle Zen moment or two, he expresses original mind moving with its energy and emptiness in powerful ways, like the flocks of birds pictured in their delicate orchestrated movements in the sky, moving then turning and swerving to some awesome universal rhythm. This man knows something about eternity and takes us along with him and it, through his music. By the end of the video we come to understand and personally know something sad and yet peaceful about our own mortality--and eternity: it's a bridge we all will cross and a realm that awaits us. To those who unfairly and cruelly judged him while he lived and because they keep calling up his name and memory, one must ask: Why should this be so--if he really did die?
My life was lifted in a profound way this weekend for having watched this video. "
Herbert von Karajan 100th birthday
Michael J. Cook | Skokie, IL | 03/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Herbert von Karajan had a long career as a conductor of opera and symphonic music.The producers of this dvd had a huge set of films, interviews and dvd productions to compress into a manageable amount of time. My hat off to their editor! This documentary only hinted at the estrangement that developed in the last years of his life with the Berlin Philharmonic over something (the appointment of Sabine Mayer)that never should have gone as far as it did. Not quite mentioned is the surgery on his back at a time when he nearly lost his life. It may have affected his personality. But, we were all enriched by his performances and the quality he established with his operatic productions at Salzburg."