Herbert von Karajan conducts Berlioz: Fantastical Symphony

Orchestre de Paris

Herbert von Karajan offers Hector Berlioz's Fantastical Symphony the most beautiful orchestral fabric one could imagine.

He was born and died on the day of the Lord... Herbert von Karajan was born on a Sunday in April 1908 in Salzburg, Mozart's city, where he died, also on a Sunday, in July 1989. In the interval, the legend was built.

Along with his taste for technology, speed, airplanes and ships, Karajan invented a new type of conductor, that of the 20th century: bye-bye Kapellmeister, hello "jet-conductor." By recording so profusely he ushered the symphonic and lyrical repertoire into the modern world. By being in the headlines of the people magazines of the period, he brought music out of the usual circle of music-lovers. Because he joined the Nazi party, which led to his exclusion from conducting in 1945, a shadow of doubt was cast on the man.

He was also often accused of accumulating the directorships of the great musical institutions: at the end of the fifties, he was the artistic director of the Vienna Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the principal conductor of the London Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor for life of the Berliner Philharmoniker. And in 1969, he accepted the position as musical advisor of the Paris Orchestra where he remained until 1971. Too much money, too much power and too many concerts.

Is it possible to listen to Karajan and to close one's eyes to all that, as he did when conducting? Yes, because if he hadn't been an outstanding conductor, there would have been no legend. Let us listen to him in 1971, eyes wide open, conducting the Paris Orchestra in Hector Berlioz's Fantastical Symphony which he recorded three times (in 1954 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and in 1964 and 1974 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra).

He had entrusted the making of this film to Roger Benamou, who doesn't hesitate to play with camera angles and colours. Karajan also plays with colours and provides the Fantastical Symphony with the most beautiful orchestral fabric one could imagine: silky, ample and enveloping. It is simply magnificent.

This concert, filmed by Roger Benamou in Paris on June 25, 1970, belongs to the INA archives.

Duration : 55 min
Recording date : 25 June 1970
Production date : 2001
Production : © Ideale Audience / Img Artists

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