July 16, 1989

“Karajan ist tot.”

Thirty years ago today, one of the musicians largely responsible my love of classical music — symphonic music and opera, in particular — died.

Herbert von Karajan is the greatest conductor of the twentieth century, unmatched in certain repertoire to this day. There are many others I greatly admire but few have had an impact like him. He was a giant, a larger than life conductor and musician that can fairly be said was the face of classical music. He created two generations of classical music lovers from the late 1950s until his death on July 16, 1989.

I have all of his recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, and EMI/HMV. His 1963 Beethoven cycle, his 1964 Brahms cycle, his two recordings of the Puccini masterpieces La Boheme and Madama Butterfly, and Richard Strauss’s Vier Letzte Lieder, remain for me reference standards against which all others are measured. I was privileged to see him conduct the Berlin Philharmonic at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 1982 in what I have described as the “greatest concert I’ve ever heard,” an incandescent and luminous performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony that I still vividly and fondly remember almost 37 years later.

Thank you, Maestro.

About The Mighty Thunderer

We write about music, audio, and technology. Like the namesake of this blog, Ludwig van Beethoven, we are hammer of polite society. We will point out the absurd and educate on the sublime...
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