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Herbert Von Karajan

Herbert Von Karajan

(1908 - 1989)

Herbert Von Karajan was an Austrian orchestra and opera conductor most known for his 35 year association with the Berlin Philharmonic of which he was principal conductor.

Generally considered to have been one of the greatest conductors of all time, he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the 1960s until his death.

Largely due to the enormous number of recordings he made he was by one estimate the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records.

Von Karajan was a child prodigy at the piano but his teacher encouraged him to concentrate on conducting because she recognised a latent talent. As early as 1929, he conducted Salome at the Festspielhaus in Salzburg and in 1934 he led the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time.

In 1937 Von Karajan made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Berlin State Opera, conducting a performance of Fidelio. Another major success followed when he conducted Tristan und Isolde with the State Opera.

A critic hailed the performance "success with Wagner's demanding work Tristan und Isolde sets himself alongside Furtwängler and de Sabata, the greatest opera conductors in Germany at the present time".

Being signed to Deutsche Grammophon that same year, Von Karajan made the first of numerous recordings with them.

He conducted at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1951 and 1952.

In 1955 he was appointed "music director for life" of the Berlin Philharmonic succeeding the legendary Wilhelm Furtwängler. From 1957 to 1964 he also served as artistic director of the Vienna State Opera.

Von Karajan became closely involved with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival, and he initiated the Easter Festival, which would remain tied to the Berlin Philharmonic's Music Director even after his departure.

He continued to perform, conduct and record prolifically until his death in 1989, mainly with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic orchestras.

He also played an important role in promoting the first digital compact disc in audio format championing it and recording the first such recording ever to be commercially released on CD - Richard Strauss's "Eine Alpensinfonie."

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