Herbert von Karajan – Maestro for the screen

Herbert von Karajan – Maestro for the screen

A film by Georg Wübbolt, Peter Gelb (2009)

Herbert von Karajan, Alfred Altenburger, Thomas Brandis, Günther Breest, Humphrey Burton, Fritz Buttenstedt, Klaus Geitel, Dietrich Gerhardt, Clemens Hellsberg, Günter Hermanns, Horant H. Hohlfeld, Herbert Kloiber, Ewald Markl, Hugo Niebeling, Norio Ohaga, Werner Resel, Lore Salzburger, Peter Schmidl, Hellmut Stern, Ernst Wild, Friedrich Witt

52 min.

Herbert von Karajan was not only a brilliant musician, but also a visionary in terms of his use of media to distribute his art. He was the first major conductor to recognise the enormous potential of television for classical music. This film by George Wübbolt traces how Karajan encountered audiovisual concert recording for the first time during a tour of Japan in 1957 and how, step by step, he made the medium his own. Karajan was a lifelong fan of technology and was also keen to learn about the latest developments in the field of television. 

His goal was to give as many people as possible access to his concerts. However, even more than the technology involved, he was particularly interested in the visual aspect – thus entering uncharted aesthetic territory. Up to that point, hardly anyone had considered how a concert could best be captured for the screen. Karajan made endless experiments, such as his collaboration with the French film maker Henri-Georges Clouzot, and finally as his own cinematographer. The documentary traces the aesthetic ideals Karajan employed to visualise classical music and in particular his own function as conductor. To illustrate this, we see diverse images from many decades of his career, and we meet many colleagues, some appreciative, some critical, who nevertheless all remember with fascination their work together with Karajan.