Herbert von Karajan

Essential Albums

  • Puccini: La Bohème

Artist Playlists

About Herbert von Karajan

Born in Salzburg in 1908, Karajan became the embodiment of the international superstar conductor in the age of TV and film. His strong flair for PR and keen business sense led him to exploit the new media in ways some found questionable, but his efforts extended the reach of classical music way beyond the opera house and concert hall. It’s estimated that he sold around 200 million records, which would make him the biggest-selling classical artist of all time—and few classical artists have taken such a close interest in the technical side of the recording process. It is important to stress, however, that Karajan was much more than a superficial showman. His recordings of the masters of the Austro-German Romantic and pre-modern ages—Beethoven, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, Richard Strauss—are still held up as exemplary by many. The luxurious richness of his orchestral sound is balanced by an exceptional feeling for the overall shape of the music—a feeling he could sustain even through such huge structures as the later operas of Wagner—and when it came to expression, he often dug deeply into the music’s emotional tissue. Although Karajan’s main focus was on the music of Germany and his native Austria, he also scored huge hits with music of other cultures, notably Verdi, Debussy, Ravel, Sibelius, and Shostakovich. Karajan died at his home in Anif, just outside Salzburg, in 1989.

Salzburg, Austria-Hungary
April 5, 1908

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