Recollections of Herbert von Karajan

In 1953 I was invited to join the Philharmonia Orchestra of London.  It was mainly a recording orchestra and I was engaged as a core member which meant I was offered all their work but could also take time off for dates in my free lance connection which I had built up over the years.

I arrived at the Kingsway Hall for my first recording date with them.  It was to be conducted by Herbert von Karajan a.k.a. Heribert Karijannis, and was of Iranian descent.  He was an aristocratic looking man, well deserving of his adopted aristocratic title of “von”  Karajan .  He was lean, of average height and in his late ‘forties with his jet black hair brushed back /”en brosse”/in the old German style. He was very polite to the orchestra, addressing everyone by name and had a clear beat, good stick technique and obtained  some good performances from the orchestra.  With all due respect, however, I must say that he lacked the scintillation of a de Sabata, a Bruno Walter or a Koussevitsky. I had heard that he was an excellent pianist, but I never did hear him play the pianoforte.

My stand partner said to me in an aside, “There he is, Legge’s pet boy, God”.  This was true.  Walter Legge, the founder and artistic director of the Philharmonia thought the world of von Karajan having listened to a post-war recording of von K., he had decided that Von. K was the man that he would promote. From then on he advanced von Karajan’s position in the musical world.

How he paid him back I will explain later.

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Published in: on March 6, 2007 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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