Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan's affiliation with Nazi Germany and his dictatorial approach to conducting still cause controversy. We take look at eight things critics and performers have said about the controversial conductor over the years...


• Read more: The trouble with Karajan

Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler reacts to positive Karajan reviews in 1940

‘If they [the critics] overrate material qualities such as the technique of conducting from memory, they are prizing hard work instead of artistic practice. They are aligning themselves with the stupid people who never seem to be in short supply, and who feel nostalgic for the circus when they are in the concert hall.'

Joseph Goebbels, 1940

‘The Führer has a very low opinion of Karajan and his conducting’

Walter Legge on Karajan contract negotiations, 1958

‘Now proudly conscious of his unique eminence, and having more power and authority than any conductor ever had, [he] is out for his last ounce of flesh, both in conditions and for the satisfaction of his ego.’

Critic Neville Cardus, 1960

‘All over the world, people go in herds to see and hear him. He is undoubtedly a master of the orchestra, and he has some hypnotic power, though he often conducts with closed eyes…’

Violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin

‘To the very end, he was accustomed to exercising authority, perhaps without compassion. I don’t know to what extent he was a compassionate man.’

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner

‘I got the impression from the concerts I attended towards the end of his life that there was something almost evil in the way he exerted the power, and that that was to the detriment of the music.’

Conductor Mariss Jansons

‘Often in rehearsal Karajan didn’t conduct. The art was to make the orchestra listen to itself. Critics sniped but, for musicians, what he did bordered on the miraculous.’

Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade describes Karajan recording Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

‘Karajan had been all concentration. All the normal things you associate with recording – time, money, the worries you have – had simply vanished. The music was so important to him, the real world seemed to fall away.’


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