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.
Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
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
Like · Reply ·

TED How to practice effectively

Here is a TED Talk on How to Practice effectively. You may have a more in-depth understanding to learning conducting.

How to practice effectively … for just about anything:

How to practice effectively … for just about anything:

Posted by TED-Ed on Monday, 27 February 2017

I like one comments made.

Sean Alan Americans often think skill is determined “by means of” actions, (learning by series of steps) when a basic action does not have a “by ways of” which you do a thing, you just do it. Basic action is one where you don’t have to think of it, you just go out and do it.

There was this famous Austrian skier who lost some Olympic race, and afterwards he said he didn’t understand why, he had perfect form. Well, the next time around, he won, but the reason why he did so was because of his skiing coach… The only thing this Austrian skiing coach used to do was yell “shnella!!” over and over again- which means, “go faster!”

The vagus nerve, emotions and the difficulty with mindfulness practices

This article may provide some insight in how the body retains the response to trauma. I am interested in how the mind tries to shut down how the body has reacted. Interested to know how this affects conductors trying to express the emotion within works by composers.

The vagus nerve, emotions and the difficulty with mindfulness practices

“Now, many people who don’t know a lot about trauma think that trauma has something to do with something that happened to you a long time ago. In fact, the past is the past and the only thing that matters is what happens right now. And what is trauma is the residue that a past event leaves in your own sensory experiences in your body and it’s not that event out there that becomes intolerable but the physical sensations with which you live that become intolerable and you will do anything to make them go away.” (Bessel van der Kolk)

Last week, during a two-day deep cleaning/paint prep binge (see the kitchen ceiling to the right!), I listened to a recorded talk by Bessel van der Kolk given at the May 2011 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference. The title of van der Kolk’s title is a mouthful: “Putting neuroplasticity into clinical practice with neurofeedback: rewiring the brains of children and adults who lack safety, self-regulation, capacity for play, and executive functioning.” The lecture in itself was interesting enough to keep me attentive for its length, but what particularly captured my interest is the manner in which he described the relationship of the vagus nerve to our emotions.

As I remembered from anatomy, the vagus nerve (cranial nerve x) innervates the diaphragm but what failed to register in class is that the vagus nerve also innervates much of our viscera – in fact all of our internal organs with the notable exception of the adrenal glands. It supplies parasympathetic fibers to these organs, meaning that the vagus nerve is a “rest and digest” nerve, not a fight or flight nerve. Van der Kolk quotes from Darwin’s work, “the heart, guts and brain communicate intimately via a nerve” – the pneumogastric or vagus nerve – “the critical nerve in the expression and management of emotions in both humans and animals…. When the mind is strongly excited it instantly affects the state of the viscera.” This is, of course, why our guts react strongly to our emotional state.

Van der Kolk continues with the statement that grabbed me: “what makes life unbearable is not emotions but physical sensations.”

“When you have a persistent sense of heartbreak and gutwrench, the physical sensations become intolerable and we will do anything to make those feelings disappear. And that is really the origin of what happens in human pathology. People take drugs to make it disappear, and they cut themselves to make it disappear, and they starve themselves to make it disappear, and they have sex with anyone who comes along to make it disappear and once you have these horrible sensations in your body, you’ll do anything to make it go away.”

“If these sensations last long enough, your whole brain starts fighting against emotions. And what happens in the long range is that traumatized people who continuously have a state of heartbreak and gut wrenching feelings learn to shut off the sensations in their bodies. And they go through life not feeling their physical presence.”

He then touches on a very important point and one that strongly resonates with me – “it’s a beginning of understanding why traumatized people have such a hard time with mindfulness and why mindfulness in principle doesn’t work for traumatized people because they cannot feel.” Van der Kolk had sent many of his highly traumatized patients to do mindfulness exercises with Jon Kabat-Zinn and found that many of them were returning in a state of upset and agitation.

“As they became silent and started to pay attention to themselves, they get overwhelmed with the physical sensations and they would flee, because being mindful means that you get confronted with your internal world.” In other words, the sensations of the internal world can be so intense that, lacking the tools to work through those sensations, people dissociate during mindfulness exercises. This is not limited to mindfulness exerces but happens in other types of movement, meditative, or healing practices, such as qigong, yoga or massage.

What van der Kolk has found to be a useful tool for moving through this difficulty is neurofeedback, which helps individuals learn to self-regulate by utilizing a feedback tool very similar to a video game that rewards the user for achieving target states such as relaxation, alertness, or focus (for more information on neurofeedback, see While neurofeedback is a very useful tool and may be a major breakthrough in trauma recovery, it is not always easy to access. Although I am less familiar with them, there are other therapies such as Hakomi method and SomatoEmotional Release that help individuals work with the emotions and physical sensations that often trigger dissociation. A major focus of my studies at this point is to understand better how Chinese/Traditional East Asian medicine works with trauma and the emotions. I suspect that many different modalities can be useful for learning to be present and integrated with our bodies, but also argue that the role of the practitioner and power of intention are key ingredients in the process.

I also believe that bodywork and somatic re-education (acupuncture, massage, tuina, qigong, sotai, et) are essential components to releasing and restoringfunction to tissues and organs that have lost mobility due to years of fleeing from those physical sensations that van der Kolk describes. We may learn to stay present with our physical sensations, but if the diaphragm is hypertonic (or too tight, just like your shoulders) or the stomach can’t move properly in the abdominal cavity, we will have to work really hard to achieve calm presence when we could instead work to unblock stagnation and release tissues. However, the issue is often truly much more complex than this and healing for many people occurs not by a magic button but through many interwoven processes that may include acupuncture, movement work, EMDR, neurofeedback, nutritional counseling, talk therapy, and meditation or mindfulness practices.

I’ve been unable to get Van der Kolk’s talk out of my mind. Although none of the concepts are unfamiliar to me, there is a sense that I’m missing something or that this visceral-emotional relationship needs to be more closely explored. In Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM), the emotions closely affect and are affected by the viscera but I have yet to truly explore the many classical references to this relationship. Spending some time sitting with the classics may help shed some light on how and why acupuncture, moxibustion and other TEAM modalities have been known to treat trauma and shock. A worthwhile topic to explore next.


About Tracy A. Andrews, MSOM, LAc

Tracy Andrews, MSOM, LAc is licensed by the Oregon Medical Board and certified as a Diplomate of Acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She maintains her private practice in Portland, Oregon, working collaboratively with her patients to address their health and wellbeing through treatments tailored to each individual’s unique needs. Additionally, Tracy sees patients at the Immune Enhancement Project, a nonprofit clinic providing complementary care to patients with chronic pain, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, and is a volunteer provider with the Returning Veterans Project. More information about her practice at

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