Karajan's grave

Karajan's grave in the Catholic Churchyard in Anif, near Salzburg, Austria, in June 1998.

Birth: Apr. 5, 1908
Death: Jul. 16, 1989

Austrian Conductor. Born of Greek Macedonian ancestry, he was the second great grandson of Georg Johannes Karajanis. Georg migrated to Vienna in 1767, eventually moving to Chemnitz in Saxony where he and his brother helped establish the Kingdom of Saxony's cloth industry. He was knighted by King Frederick Augustus III on June 1, 1792. The Karajanis family name became von Karajan. Herbert von Karajan was born in Salzburg into a very musical family on April 5, 1908. After studies in piano and conducting with Bernard Paumgartner at the Mozarteum, he conducted Richard Strauss' "Salome" at the Festspielhaus in Salzburg in 1929. His first appointment was as first Kapellmeister at the Stadttheater in Ulm, Germany, from 1929 to 1934. The impresario Max Reinhardt engaged him to conduct the music for the "Walpurgisnacht" scene in a production of Goethe's "Faust" at the Salzburg Festival in 1933. He began his lifelong relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg the following year. After an appointment at the Staatsoper in Aachen, von Karajan was appointed Germany's youngest "Generalmusikdirektor" and guest conducted in Brussels, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and other cities. In 1937, he debuted with the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted Beethoven's "Fidelio" at the Berlin Staatsoper. After a major success with Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" in 1938, he was hailed by a Berlin critic as "das wunder Karajan". In the late 30s, he was offered and accepted a contract with Deutsche Grammophon and made his first recording, the Overture to Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte", with the Staatskapelle Berlin. In 1946, Karajan gave his first post-war concert in Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic. He was then banned temporarily from further conducting activities by the Russian occupation authorities because of his Nazi party membership. That summer he participated anonymously in the Salzburg Festival. The following year, he was allowed to resume conducting activities after undergoing the de-Nazification process and being cleared by the Allies. In 1948, Karajan became artistic director of the Singverein semi-professional choir of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. He also conducted at La Scala opera house in Milan. At the invitation of the orchestra's founder, he began making recordings with the newly-formed Philharmonia Orchestra in London. The orchestra was soon recognized as one of the world's finest and many of Karajan's and their recordings became legendary. In 1951 and 1952 Karajan conducted at the reopened Bayreuth Festspielhaus. A celebrated performance of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger aus Nürnberg" was recorded live by HMV. After the death of conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler in November 1954, Karajan took the Berlin Philharmonic on tour to the United States. He was elected music director for life by the orchestra while in Washington, DC. He soon also accepted appointments at the Vienna State Opera and La Scala in Milan thus gaining him the title "General Music Director of Europe" in music circles and the press. In this capacity, he was closely involved with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival. In the 1960s, he founded the Salzburg Easter Festival thus giving him an opportunity to realize his dreams of perfect opera performance. He continued to perform, conduct, record, and film performances prolifically until his death from a heart attack at his home in Anif, near Salzburg, Austria, on July 16, 1989, while preparing Verdi's "Un ballo in Maschera" for the opening of the Salzburg Festival.

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