Music Magazine’s Article on Herbert von Karajan #3

The row in Baltimore should never have happened.  We were all tired and, personally, I didn’t notice anything strange in the away von Karajan was conducting the anthems, but it was to have a serious effect on the Philharmonia’s future.  First, the number of recordings dropped dramatically, then there was the sad death of Dennis Brain, the first horn, the resignation of the concert master, Manoug Parikian,and others.  I decided to leave and go out into the big world outside the Philharmonia because I had a wife, two kids, a mortgage and school fees to find.  Shortly afterwards Legge dropped the bombshell that he was disbanding the orchestra, but it was resuscitated as a self-run orchestra under the title of the “New Philharmonia Orchestra”.  Dr. Otto Klemperer was made the permanent conductor and later on “Conductor for Life”.

Von Karajan continued to do well; he had the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Opera and the Scala Opera, but it seemed to go to his head.  Musicians all over the world talk to each other and I began to hear some odd things from the Berlin and the Vienna boys about him.  It seems his ego which was always inflated before  was now making it difficult for musicians to work with him and finally led years late to his downfall.

To summarize, I personally think he was a good all round conductor, but not a great one. One of his favourite pieces that I enjoyed was the “Concerto for Orchestra” by Bartok .  We recorded it.

He was aggressively ambitious and was a good business man but underneath it all there was a certain warmth.

I remember I had a dispute over fees with the management.  The fees went up but I was not paid extra for the five stringer.  The matter was settled, so I took the 5 stringer to the concert that night and who should I get into the elevator to the platform with but von Karajan.  He smiled at me and rubbed his forefinger and thumb together and said “Did you get the money?”  I rubbed my forefinger and thumb together and said “Yes, I did, but you aren’t doing too bad are you?” at which he smiled, patted me on the shoulder and said “See you on the platform”.  Ever afterwards whenever we saw each other we would grin and rub our finger and thumb together.  It showed me that he had a sense of humour and  I would never go so far as to say he was at all evil.

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Herbert von Karajan #2

Comment on article in BBC Music Magazine:

I well believe von Karajan when he said he joined the Nazi Party only to further his career. It could have been normal for any young man to have done so if he thought it would help him, however, so far I have not heard of any involvement he had in committing atrocities. After all these years I am willing to forgive him for being a Nazi, but not if he had been in the S.S. and committed any atrocities.. I was on the battlefield with the British Army and certainly have no time for the S.S. after many of my comrades were murdered by them.

It was Walter Legge who discovered him in the late forties by listening to a record, so I’m told, and then built up his career. He paid back Legge and the Philharmonia in a rather bad way. It happened like this: The Philharmonia Orchestra was playing a concert in Baltimore at the end of a long, exhausting tour. There were demonstrations outside the concert hall about his Nazi past and as a result the hall was not packed as were all the other concerts we gave.

At the morning seating rehearsal a violinist, Peter Gibbs, an ex-fighter pilot, stood and berated von Karajan for conducting the British and American National Anthems in what he thought was a casual way. Legge stood up and told him to sit down and afterwards assured von Karajan that Gibbs would not be allowed to play that night. However, Gibbs came to the concert dressed and ready to play, at which von Karajan refused to go on stage unless Gibbs was sent away. Dennis Brain, the principal horn and Gareth Morris the principal flute and a few others said they would refuse to play unless Gibbs played .

After a long wait and some slow hand-clapping von Karajan came on after Gibbs had sat down in the orchestra. There was a second long wait after the interval.

Next day, in Washington, we were to board the plane home to England but Legge, von Karajan and Mattoni, his agent, were not with us.

A few days after we arrived home, the chairman of the orchestra members committee called a meeting and told us that he had received a letter from von Karajan’s lawyer in Vienna demanding an apology signed by every member of the orchestra. This was discussed, and as it was around Christmastide we sent him a card wishing him a happy Christmas.

Shortly afterwards we received another letter stating that although von Karajan was under contract with EMI the name of the Orchestra was not mentioned in it so henceforth von Karajan would be making the recordings solely with the Berlin Philharmonic.

He had already been approached by the Berlin Philharmonic to be their conductor so the row at Baltimore gave him an ideal excuse to leave the Philharmonia.