When the Berliner Philharmoniker elected Herbert von Karajan as its chief conductor in 1954, it was a dream come true for him. Even as Karajan conducted the orchestra for the first time in 1938, he knew “that I had arrived where I had always wanted to be – no matter what life still had in store for me. Here, I would best be able to achieve what I wanted.” And that is exactly what happened. The Berliner Philharmoniker turned out to be a partner that was able to realise Karajan’s aesthetic perfectly. Even the visual framework corresponded precisely to his ideas: in the form of the Berlin Philharmonie whose visionary architecture was only able to be realised thanks to Karajan’s decisive intervention.
From the mutual cooperation between the Philharmoniker and Karajan arose a specific orchestral sound full of beauty and intoxicating energy which soon bore comparison with a worldwide ideal. Orchestral tours – which included the USA, Japan and China for the first time under Karajan’s direction – and the orchestra’s many recordings in particular, added to their international reputation. The question of how musical performances could best be documented was pursued by Karajan with relentless curiosity all his life. Karajan was also a pioneer in the new field of audiovisual concert recording, and captured countless performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker in sound and pictures.
We would like to take the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the death of Herbert von Karajan on 16 July 2014 to remember the work of the conductor with the Berliner Philharmoniker on our website – using, of course, Karajan’s extensive media heritage. In our Digital Concert Hall we will be showing video recordings produced by the Unitel company in the 60s and 70s from the beginning of July – a unique document of a particularly productive phase of the work of conductor and orchestra. In addition, further texts, historical images, and memories of people there at the time convey an idea of this particular era in the history of the Berliner Philharmoniker.