Classical Album of the Week

Classical Album of the Week

Twenty-six years ago this week, the classical music world lost one of the greatest personalities of the 20th century: Herbert von Karajan.

Born April 5, 1908 and passing away July 16th, 1989 at the age of 81, the Austrian conductor was undoubtably one of the most significant conductors the world has ever seen.

Karajan a man driven by a singular mission. His desire to pass on a unique experience for the listener was at the center in his entire career – a goal we can believe he firmly achieved. He lived a life that appeared glamorous on the surface – with private jets and fancy cars – but in truth he also was a very moderate man.

In his day Karajan was one of the most powerful people in the music world.

He spent his last 35 years as the chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonics – one of the world’s best symphony orchestras – which was a very prosperous, if occasionally stormy, marriage. Among other achievements in his tenure, Karajan literally laid the foundation stone for the now-legendary Philharmonie in Berlin.

His influence is wide, if not downright intimidating, thanks in large part to his massive catalog of recordings. By some metrics he is the most commercially successful classical artists of all time, with over 200 million records sold to date.

On this week’s Classical Album, you can witness a true highlight of Karajan’s distinguished career: the 1983 recording of Georges Bizet’s timeless classic Carmen, alongside the Berlin Philharmonics and the Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa in the opera’s title role. Baltsa is flanked by José Carreras as Don José, Katia Ricciarelli as Micaela and José van Dam as the bullfighter Escamillo, among others.

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© Siegfried Lauterwasser / DG

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