View Poll Results: Karajan - Hero or Hype?

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Thread: Karajan - Hero or Hype?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Default Karajan - Hero or Hype?

    I do not get get "culty" over conductors. Like anyone else, though, I have preferred interpreters of the music that I like, and I find that Herbert von Karajan usually does not dissapoint me. In fact, he often wows me.

    In my humble opinion, he is certainly one of the great Sibelians of all time. His recordings of Richard Strauss are nothing less than authoritative, perhaps definitive. His Beethoven has the imprimatur of true expertise and flair.

    I am so often in awe of what this conductor has been able to accomplish I can certainly rank him among my favorite conductors. So, to me, he is a musical hero.

    But I so often encounter criticism of his art: he was an opportunist nazi-sympathizer, his sound was too "homogenized" and too glossy, he tinkered to much with the engineering of his recordings. He was a bon-vivant playboy whose skills on the poduim were more hype than anything.

    Which side of the fence are you on...and why?
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    I do not get get "culty" over conductors. Like anyone else, though, I have preferred interpreters of the music that I like, and I find that Herbert von Karajan usually does not dissapoint me. In fact, he often wows me.

    In my humble opinion, he is certainly one of the great Sibelians of all time. His recordings of Richard Strauss are nothing less than authoritative, perhaps definitive. His Beethoven has the imprimatur of true expertise and flair.

    I am so often in awe of what this conductor has been able to accomplish I can certainly rank him among my favorite conductors. So, to me, he is a musical hero.

    But I so often encounter criticism of his art: he was an opportunist nazi-sympathizer, his sound was too "homogenized" and too glossy, he tinkered to much with the engineering of his recordings. He was a bon-vivant playboy whose skills on the poduim were more hype than anything.

    Which side of the fence are you on...and why?
    I like HvK a great deal. Or at least I used to before the "hip" revolution became difficult to avoid. He was among my favourite conductors along with Beecham, Colin Davis, Karl Bohm. But as time has gone by I'm afraid to say that my allegiance has largely gone over to more modern "hip" orchestras.

    I'm aware of the criticism that you mention in your last paragraph about the way he tinkered with the engineering of his recordings. Whilst I was a big fan of his work I didn't especially note this, as I thought it was a reflection of how great the BPO was under his direction, and I accepted it as part of the Hvk/BPO sound. But as I listen again to some of those old recordings of mine, I do now detect a kind of boomy, somewhat artificial sound.

    I hope this thread doesn't deteriorate into an unpleasant discussion about the other aspect mentioned in your last paragrpah. If it does I can see it being closed quickly.
    Last edited by Artemis; Nov-29-2011 at 20:41.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post

    Which side of the fence are you on...and why?
    I forgot to add that I'm straight, quite definitely so. I prefer it that way.

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis View Post
    I do now detect a kind of boomy, somewhat artificial sound.
    I have often wondered how "artificial" it really sounds. And if it does sound "artificial," so what as long as it sounds good?

    HVK was certainly from a different school of thought as it related to sound engineering. Quite honestly, I vastly prefer the sound of the older recordings to newer ones. Newer recordings, it seems, try to accomplishe this spacious, "natural" sound as we would hear it in a concert hall. Older recordings, and certainly Karajan's, seem to get you closer to the action, as if you were actually standing before the orchestra in the conductor's position.

    Trying to replicate the sound of a spacious concert hall on a recording often has lackluster results, I believe. These recordings often seem distant and diffuse. I really do not think it is easy...or really possible...to replicate the acoustic of an entire concert hall for a two-speaker hi-fi. Perhaps this is more easy to do on a modern surround sound system, but I do not have one of those, so I do not know.

    Perhaps Karajan wanted to replicate the sound as HE heard it on the podium as opposed to how the concert-goer would hear it up in the nose-bleed section. Perhaps it was his intention to bring the listener to a position via the recording that he would normally never be able to experience seated in the hall. Who wouldn't relish the chance to hear the orchestra from the perspective of the conductor?

    I can only guess what his intentions were when he was involved in the recording process, but my personal theory makes a lot of sense to me!
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    I do not get get "culty" over conductors. Like anyone else, though, I have preferred interpreters of the music that I like, and I find that Herbert von Karajan usually does not dissapoint me. In fact, he often wows me.

    In my humble opinion, he is certainly one of the great Sibelians of all time. His recordings of Richard Strauss are nothing less than authoritative, perhaps definitive. His Beethoven has the imprimatur of true expertise and flair.

    I am so often in awe of what this conductor has been able to accomplish I can certainly rank him among my favorite conductors. So, to me, he is a musical hero.

    But I so often encounter criticism of his art: he was an opportunist nazi-sympathizer, his sound was too "homogenized" and too glossy, he tinkered to much with the engineering of his recordings. He was a bon-vivant playboy whose skills on the poduim were more hype than anything.

    Which side of the fence are you on...and why?
    i agree with you in all the points. the only thing that i would add is that some percentage of the great quality of karajan's sound it's because of the great orchestra he conducted, the BPO. regards.

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    Senior Member regressivetransphobe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    I have often wondered how "artificial" it really sounds. And if it does sound "artificial," so what as long as it sounds good?
    Twinkies may taste good, but I wouldn't live off them.
    People who hide are afraid!

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    i agree with you in all the points. the only thing that i would add is that some percentage of the great quality of karajan's sound it's because of the great orchestra he conducted, the BPO. regards.
    A truly excellent and valid point!
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    i agree with you in all the points. the only thing that i would add is that some percentage of the great quality of karajan's sound it's because of the great orchestra he conducted, the BPO. regards.
    Yes but it was HvK who got the BPO to perform this way. He didn't just turn up one day and find a great orchestra waiting to be conducted. He had to lick into the shape he wanted

    In this respect he was supposedly a very tough and demanding taskmaster and asked for a great deal from his musicians before he was satisfied. Most of his orchestra members were often quite terified of him, but there was famous case that whenever he was working with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (the famous sprano) who used to refer to him as "Herbie" in open public, as a way of offsetting his domineering approach. I gather this appelation used to drive him mad, but he had to put up with given her statuus and stardom.

    In this respect he was like Toscanini, who was tyrant-like in enforcing discipline. Carlos Kleiber was another great conductor who had a reputation for working his orchestra to death in rehearsels before he was satisfied.

    In my earlier cooment I wasn't implying that I dislike the sound of Hvk/BPO. It's just that I can now hear what others have said about the kind of sound that he generated. It's a trade-mark sound that I can now recognise quite easily. All recorded sounds sounds artificial to me, but I've got used to it.

    As you know, I'm bonkers about Schubert. One of favourite recordings of the "Unfinished" symphony is by HvK but it's an early performance with him conducting not the BPO but the Philharmonia Orchestra a famous British orchestra). It has a very sombre, dark earie feel to it compared with several others I have, and I just love it.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    I will refrain from voting, simply because I don't think of HVK as either "hero" or "hype". He is merely a great conductor of his era, and I don't attribute to him anything "heroic" or any special place in the pantheon of conductors.

    There is a great group of conductors that were HVK's contemporaries: Bernstein, Kubelik, Giulini, Leinsdorf, Solti, all of which were born between 1908 and 1920 - we could add Guido Cantelli to the mix, but his legacy is unfulfilled due to his tragic death at an early age. All of these fine men are "the cream of the crop" of their generation.

    Equally, I don't deny his contributions and he did lead a stelllar orchestra (The Berlin Philharmonic) for a number of years, probably the finest orchestra of its day. Therefore, no "hype" there.

    The next great generation - the one that came to prominence in the early 1960's which counts the likes of Barenboim, Mehta, Abbado, Dutoit, Muti are today's elder statesmen of conducting, and they rank (as history has shown) in many ways equally to these great conductors of the earlier generation.

    Will we be able to say the same of the current crop of conductors, which has benefited from the "electronic age" to take in the performances of the great masters that preceeded them? Ask me in twenty years...

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    A great conductor but not "hero" nor "hype" to me. Anycase, he was one who many would have spent much time listening to at least when first getting into classical music, or so that appears with folks whom I know in the real world. Although I don't have that much of Karajan CDs, I admit my first exposure to some of the big name symphonies were under his baton. I recall listening to Mozart's #39 over and over under him (until I discovered period instrument interpretations by Christopher Hogwood that put Karajan aside for that piece). A grand maestro from the 20th century German conducting school? Fair description or flawed one? He is certainly in the history books for respect.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    Yes but it was HvK who got the BPO to perform this way. He didn't just turn up one day and find a great orchestra waiting to be conducted. He had to lick into the shape he wanted
    yes, my sentence was not an extreme one, i have seen videos of karajan being very demanding with the musicians. but that's the key, if the musicians are not good, no matter how demanding you are, you will not succeed. so, it's a combination of a great orchestra and a conductor able to get the best of it.

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    And by the way, the terms "hero" and "hype" are perhaps not to be taken too literally. They are just a little bit of hyperbole I am using for this poll. Please do not read too much into it.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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  17. #13
    Senior Member kv466's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    I will refrain from voting, simply because I don't think of HVK as either "hero" or "hype". He is merely a great conductor of his era, and I don't attribute to him anything "heroic" or any special place in the pantheon of conductors.

    There is a great group of conductors that were HVK's contemporaries: Bernstein, Kubelik, Giulini, Leinsdorf, Solti, all of which were born between 1908 and 1920 - we could add Guido Cantelli to the mix, but his legacy is unfulfilled due to his tragic death at an early age. All of these fine men are "the cream of the crop" of their generation.

    Equally, I don't deny his contributions and he did lead a stelllar orchestra (The Berlin Philharmonic) for a number of years, probably the finest orchestra of its day. Therefore, no "hype" there.

    The next great generation - the one that came to prominence in the early 1960's which counts the likes of Barenboim, Mehta, Abbado, Dutoit, Muti are today's elder statesmen of conducting, and they rank (as history has shown) in many ways equally to these great conductors of the earlier generation.

    Will we be able to say the same of the current crop of conductors, which has benefited from the "electronic age" to take in the performances of the great masters that preceeded them? Ask me in twenty years...

    Man, I can always count on you to say exactly what I want to say with far more eloquence.
    I would like to go ahead and answer your question now, however; no need to wait twenty years. More than likely, not. Sure, there'll be great conductors as long as the music is being performed but I feel great recordings will become fewer and much farther between.

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    Senior Member GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    I did not vote because it is my feeling that both terms can apply. During his earlier years he produced many interpretations, Beethoven is a good example, of great power and intensity. But as time went on he became more interested in a beautiful, seamless sound and his performances became more shallow. The unfortunate thing is that when his "Uber Ego" took hold and he became Music DirectorGeneral of Europe many deserving conductors were deprived of an opportunity to gain prominence because of the Karajan machine. There were also a number of singers who were seduced by the aura of working with the "Great Man" whose careers were prematurely shortened by accepting roles they were not suited for. But then many conductors have not been good judges of who to cast in which roles, if they were given the desision. Thus my conclusion that in many aspects he did more harm than good.
    Rob

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    hype, don't think so................

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tidezZLhk8Y

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