Sunday, October 12, 2008
Here's a link to my review of Herbert von Karajan: A Life in Pictures, an extensive coffee table book that visually documents the ubiquitous maestro's life and career. It appears as an online-only review on the League of American Orchestra's Web site.
The review is only a reflection of this particular book, which is an editorial embarrassment. Even though it's not popular to admit this today, I'm a huge Karajan fan. Critics across the world have spent much of 2008 lashing out at Karajan, his music, and his hypnotic cult of personality. I, of course, did not know the man–sounds like he could be a real nightmare to work with–but I know his music. He has certainly recorded his share of stinkers: a commemorative set from EMI features some of the absolute worst Mozart, Schubert, and Johann Strauss I've ever heard, and some of his later performances could be particularly gooey. But many of his discs are still reference recordings–absolute essentials in any serious collection. The first Beethoven cycle, Tristan, Salome, the last four Sibelius symphonies, the legendary Bruckner Eighth and Mahler Ninth. I have many more personal favorites, but these recordings are unimpeachable masterpieces. He may have been a repulsive human, but he was a genius on the podium.