Conductor Herbert von Karajan: controversy in 8 quotes

The controversy of Karajan in eight quotes

What have critics and performers said about the formidable Austrian conductor over the years?

3 December 2014 – 12:34pm

The controversy of Karajan in eight quotes

Nearly 30 years after the death of Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, his affiliation with Nazi Germany and his dictatorial approach to conducting still cause controversy. We take look at eight things critics and performers have said about the controversial conductor over the years…

• Read more: The trouble with Karajan

Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler reacts to positive Karajan reviews in 1940

‘If they [the critics] overrate material qualities such as the technique of conducting from memory, they are prizing hard work instead of artistic practice. They are aligning themselves with the stupid people who never seem to be in short supply, and who feel nostalgic for the circus when they are in the concert hall.’

Joseph Goebbels, 1940

‘The Führer has a very low opinion of Karajan and his conducting’

Walter Legge on Karajan contract negotiations, 1958

‘Now proudly conscious of his unique eminence, and having more power and authority than any conductor ever had, [he] is out for his last ounce of flesh, both in conditions and for the satisfaction of his ego.’

Critic Neville Cardus, 1960

‘All over the world, people go in herds to see and hear him. He is undoubtedly a master of the orchestra, and he has some hypnotic power, though he often conducts with closed eyes…’


Violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin

‘To the very end, he was accustomed to exercising authority, perhaps without compassion. I don’t know to what extent he was a compassionate man.’

Conductor John Eliot Gardiner

‘I got the impression from the concerts I attended towards the end of his life that there was something almost evil in the way he exerted the power, and that that was to the detriment of the music.’

Conductor Mariss Jansons

‘Often in rehearsal Karajan didn’t conduct. The art was to make the orchestra listen to itself. Critics sniped but, for musicians, what he did bordered on the miraculous.’

Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade describes Karajan recording Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

‘Karajan had been all concentration. All the normal things you associate with recording – time, money, the worries you have – had simply vanished. The music was so important to him, the real world seemed to fall away.’


Read more…

Blog: John Bridcut on Karajan’s Magic and Myth

Karajan conducting: five fantastic Karajan moments

The trouble with Karajan



Music Expression

A beautiful performance of a song from Portugal, so full of expression, which WON the 2017 Eurovision Song Content. Check out an excerpt and work out how you would conduct the singer!?!

Portugal – Salvador Sobral – Amar Pelos Dois

Salvador stuns the arena this evening. Did you enjoy the performance from Portugal? #Eurovision ??

Posted by Eurovision Song Contest on Tuesday, 9 May 2017


Conducting Workshops 2017

With the Grainger Wind Symphony and in partnership with the Australian Band and Orchestra Directors Association Victoria Branch, I am convening 3 Conducting Learning Programs across May-June 2017

  1. Conducting Intensive Program
  2. Public Seminar
  3. Conducting Workshop Program

The Conducting Intensive Program starts 10am Saturday 27th May with one of three conducting classes, podium time in a video workshop on 21 June from 7.45pm, a free seminar Wednesday 28th June at 5pm for 5.30pm-6.30pm and a review class Saturday 1st July from 10am. Clinician is Roland Yeung

The Public Seminar is on Wednesday 28th June 5.00pm for 5.30pm – 6.30pm. I am presenting a one hour seminar on the topic “Music Expression in the Ensemble Rehearsal”.

The Conducting Workshop Program is all on Wednesday 28th June starting with the Public Seminar, a one-on-one conducting tutorial with a conducting mentor, and podium time in a video workshop supported by a mentor that can be selected from the list.

Click here to go to the page with more detail, information sheet, application form, fees and bookings.

How to get Middle School kids to play Marches at the right tempo?

Here is a copy of responses to the question asked on the Band Directors Group on FB. Great answers.

Bridget Beliveau? to Band Directors

2 hrs  Thursday 9 March 2017·

“So I’m working on a couple of marches with different groups. Chimes of Liberty and High School Cadets and I think my arm is going to fall off. How do you get your kids to play the correct tempo? We start to get it, then they play too loud. We play softer and they slow down. Any tips or tricks for a middle school band director????”













Heather Staring Melnick stop conducting. Get off the podium. Make them listen. Have one of your snares play straight 8ths with a met in his/her ear
Like · Reply · 5 · 2 hrs
Shane Knupps Trying hard enough to get tired never made any band speed up. If they’re dragging, do less. Use your wrist and conduct smaller.
Like · Reply · 5 · 2 hrs
Metro A. Narcisi III Have snare drummer pound an 8th note pulse while the winds play. If you don’t have a snare drummer that can keep good time, use a metronome in PA system. Also have them play lighter. Don’t conduct, let them listen to the subdivision and count for themselves. If that doesn’t work, throw drum sticks at the kids…if they are nimble enough to dodge a drum stick, then they are nimble enough to play March tempo…. Heeheehee
Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
Andrew McKay ^^^^ This. Bigger = louder, right?
Conduct smaller to get their focus.


Carl Rowles Conduct smaller. Lighter. Use only the smallest of flicking motions. If your students have been taught to follow, they will. Most likely, you’ll have to rehearse them to get them to lighten up. Start with the bass voices by themselves, getting them lighter. Then add the “chucks” (boom-chuck) then start layering things back together. They can get it pretty quickly. but YOU have to make sure you aren’t enabling them to play with a heavy style. If you think your arm is going to fall off, i’m guessing your pattern is too big and too heavy. Less is more.
Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
Allen Klaes Teach the bass drum and tubas to play in the front of the beat, then put them in charge of tempo and walk away.
Like · Reply · 3 · 1 hr
Keith Walker Tell the tubas and bass drummer that they are in charge, then challenge them to try to rush. Works almost every time.
Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
Stephen N Denise Pearce Middle School…”Play faster, kids.” High School…”Play faster.” Adult Concert Band…”Play faster.” Ockham ?
Like · Reply · 2 · 1 hr
Jim DePrizio Turn on the lie dectector… dr. Beat.
Like · Reply · 4 · 1 hr
Michael Saul Try getting off the box and not conducting.
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Bev Wemyss O’Connor Have them sing their parts with a metronome. Percussion as well
James Gerrard I agree with what everyone is saying, conduct from the wrist, too many big motions and it’s like yelling all the time, it loses its impact. Save the big gestures for moments that call for it. I also plug my metronome into an amplifier and do sections a few times with it, then without it to see if they can maintain tempo.
T Kurtis Carpenter Met time. Like, every day. Spend your energy conducting phrases and dynamics while the met is doing the heavy work.
Mike Aycock Put a metronome ONLY in the ear of the tuba, bass drum, and snare. Have the group keep up with them. Play the march soft and overly (not heavy) articulated and keep time. Then, add dynamics until it is stable. Work the speed slightly too fast for aSee more

Brian Pitts For me it’s getting the percussion to be right with me. Then I make the band listen. Get them off that metronome as soon as possible or you will be sorry.

Doing Belle of Chicago with my high school 2nd band (2nd of 3).

Michael Benoit A very loud metronome
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