Karajan conducts Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique

Orchestre de Paris

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Program notes

A giant of classical music, Herbert von Karajan left an indelible if controversial mark on this history of classical music. This film features the storied Maestro conducting the Orchestre de Paris in a performance of Hector Berlioz's similarly storied masterwork, Symphonie fantastique.

Born just after the turn of the 20th century, Herbert von Karajan was destined to become a conductor of a kind never before seen. By the end of the 1950s, 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 Orchestre de Paris. Karajan remained there until 1971, and this performance of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique dates from those brief years in Paris, to the year 1970. Careful about his image and reluctant to allow himself to be filmed, for this concert Karajan collaborated with director Roger Benamou. Benamou highlights the somber and massive in Berlioz's music, using intimate camera work and unusual angles, techniques that, when combined, result in a style is as personal as Karajan's own.

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