A one-hour portrait of the great conductor.
Born in Graz, Austria, on 28 August 1894, Karl Böhm made his conducting debut in his hometown in 1917 before going to Munich in 1921, where he was hired by Bruno Walter. He made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1933 and was appointed general manager of the Dresden State Opera the same year. This marked the beginning of an intensive and fruitful collaboration with Richard Strauss (Böhm conducted the world premieres of Die Schweigsame Frau and Daphne). He died in Salzburg on 14 August 1981.
One of the hallmarks of Böhm's conducting was its perennially youthful vigor and directness, its lack of pathos and sentimentality. Dramatic climaxes and full sonorities grew out of almost imperceptible accents, out of the natural rhythm of the human breath. His gestures were minimalistic, his baton suggested movement more than it described it. Böhm set standards with his interpretations of the works of his long-time friend Richard Strauss. The unofficial curator of Strauss' musical legacy, Böhm knew his friend's music inside and out – and he knew just how Strauss wanted his works to sound. Böhm's Mozart interpretations reflect the naturalness and clarity of his conducting. Although Wagner was one of his first loves, Böhm soon discovered Mozart's operas thanks to Bruno Walter. Later, Böhm's friendship with Richard Strauss led to a still deeper knowledge and appreciation of Mozart. In his autobiography, Böhm wrote that "Richard Strauss revealed to me the ultimate secrets of this – in my opinion – greatest of all musical geniuses [Mozart]." Böhm's discovery of these secrets transformed his Mozart interpretations into unforgettable events.