Herbert von Karajan

Born April 5, 1908 . Died July 16, 1989 .


The legend of the “Wunder Karajan” was born in 1938 with an acclaimed Tristan at the Berlin Staatsoper.

Yet Karajan’s career properly took off in the post-war world, with technological advances that not only allowed him to be Europe’s “General Music Director” with appointments in London, Vienna and Milan, but meant that his visionary conducting style, devoted to a new ideal of beauty and clarity of sound, could be preserved on record and film.

Over more than forty years he moulded “his” orchestra, the Berliner Philharmoniker, to this aesthetic, at the same time creating numerous groundbreaking opera productions that integrated all the musical and dramatic aspects in a single vision.

  • 1916–26: Studies under Ledwinka (piano), Sauer (harmony) and Paumgartner (composition and chamber music) at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
  • 1929–34: Kapellmeister at the Ulm Stadttheater.
  • 1935–42: General Music Director of the Aachen Stadttheater.
  • 1939–42: Kapellmeister at the Staatsoper in Berlin and conductor of the symphony concerts of the Preußische Staatskapelle.
  • 1940: Karajan conducts Strauss’s Elektra in the presence of the composer.
  • 1946: First post-war concert with the Wiener Philharmoniker.
  • 1948–53: Principal Conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker, also works closely with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. 1955: Appointed Principal Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker in succession to Wilhelm Furtwängler (from 1956 conductor “for life”).
  • 1956–60: Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival.
  • 1957–64: Artistic Director of the Vienna Staatsoper, working closely with La Scala, Milan, operating a stagione system and giving operas in their original language.
  • 1965: Begins to make opera and concert films with Unitel as conductor and director.
  • 1967: Founds the Salzburg Easter Festival, of which he is also Artistic Director.
  • 1982: First classical CD: Karajan conducts Strauss’s Alpine Symphony.
  • 23 April 1989: Karajan’s last concert: Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony with the Wiener Philharmoniker.
Upper right picture : © Artef / DG / G. Brandenstein. Central picture : © Ghislain Dussart / EMI.