Karajan's Magic and Myth

BBC Four

Twenty-five years after his death in July 1989, the controversial Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan remains an enigma. He was the most successful conductor in the history of classical music. Many of those recordings – of Italian opera, of Wagner and Richard Strauss, of Sibelius, Beethoven and Brahms – are treasured by music lovers around the world. Yet, even at the peak of his fame, his performances were variously criticised for being too opulent, too manicured, lacking warmth or spiritual depth.

This musical profile explores the many paradoxes in the life and music of this controversial figure, who forged his international reputation in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra shortly after the end of the Second World War and went on to reign supreme in the classical music world during his three decades with the Berlin Philharmonic. The film also examines Karajan’s belief in the visual power of music, and his determination to leave behind a substantial legacy of music on film.