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Karl Böhm

Karl Böhm

1894 -1981

 

Karl August Leopold Böhm was an Austrian conductor widely considered to be one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.


Böhm studied law and earned a doctorate before later studying music at the Graz Conservatory and Bruno Walter engaged him at Munich's Bavarian State Opera in 1921.

He succeeded Fritz Busch as head of Dresden's Semper Opera and then in 1943 he becamse the music director for the Vienna State Opera.

Böhm's career prospered and the Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival featured prominently in his career. He additionally resumed ties in Dresden, at the Staatskapelle.

He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1957, conducting "Don Giovanni", and quickly became one of the favorite conductors of the Rudolf Bing era.

He conducted 262 performances, including house premieres of "Ariadne auf Naxos" and "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" (which was the first major success in the new opera house at Lincoln Center).

He also conducted many other major productions there, such as "Fidelio", "Le Nozze Di Figaro", "Tristan und Isolde" (including the house debut performance of Birgit Nilsson there in 1959), "Parsifal", "Lohengrin", "Otello", "Der Rosenkavalier", "Salome", "Wozzeck", "Elektra" and others. He also conducted at Bayreuth in 1966 and 1967, with much critical acclaim at the recordings he made of the entire Ring Cycle as well as "Tristan & Isolde".


Late in life, he began a guest-conducting relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in a 1973 appearance at the Salzburg Festival. He was given the title of LSO President, which he held until his death.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to music lay in bringing to life the operas of his close colleague Richard Strauss. Böhm led the premieres of Strauss's late works"Die Schweigsame Frau" (1935) and "Daphne" (1938), of which he the dedicatee, recorded all of the major operas (often making cuts to the scores).

He revived Strauss's operas regularly with strong casts during his tenures in Vienna, Dresden, as well as at the Salzburg Festival.

Böhm was praised for his rhythmically robust interpretations of the operas and his plain Wagnerian style won many fans.

He also was an early champion of Berg and he made recordings of Alban Berg's operas "Wozzeck" and "Lulu" long before they gained a position in the basic operatic repertory.

Böhm died in Salzburg.


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