Herbert von Karajan

An Artistic Partnership that redefined Deutsche Grammophon

By Deutsche Grammophon

Herbert von Karajan (1978) by © Decca / Elfriede HanakDeutsche Grammophon

Pursuit of Perfection

Karajan’s iconic artistry arose from the awe-inspiring power of his podium presence, the poetic fluidity of his gestures and the passionate intensity of his music-making. His pursuit of perfection in performance – reinforced by meticulous preparation in rehearsal – and his cultivation of an ideally-blended orchestral sound were aided by advances in recording technology, from the introduction of the LP and stereo sound to the arrival of digital recording.

Herbert von Karajan (1971) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

The First and Last DG Recordings

Deutsche Grammophon released Karajan’s debut recording, the overture to “Die Zauberflöte” with the Berlin Staatskapelle, in 1939. He made his final album for the yellow label, a visionary account of Bruckner’s Symphony No.7 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, fifty years later. 

Herbert von Karajan (1968) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

An Ambitious Partnership with the Berlin Philharmonic

Karajan became Principal Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1955 and held the position for the rest of his life. In 1959 he signed a new exclusive agreement with Deutsche Grammophon and, over the next three decades, made some 330 records for the yellow label. His partnership with the Berlin Philharmonic, fully documented by DG, delivered recordings of everything from Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos to Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra Op.31.

Herbert von Karajan: Beethoven - 9 Symphonies (1963)Deutsche Grammophon

The alpha and omega of Deutsche Grammophon’s catalogue. Released in 1963, the first complete set of Beethoven’s symphonies, bringing together Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, remains the greatest landmark in the label’s history.

Inauguration Concert of Berlin Philharmonie (1963)Deutsche Grammophon

1963 October 15, Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the inaugural concert of the Berlin Philharmonie.

Herbert von Karajan (1970) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

A Pioneer in the Digital Era

In 1980, Herbert von Karajan conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in DG’s first digital recording; they continued to set trends two years later when they recorded Strauss’s “Eine Alpensinfonie” for the yellow label’s first mass-produced CD.

Herbert von Karajan & Anne-Sophie Mutter (1984) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart -Violin Concerto No.3 In G Major, K.216
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Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, Kathleen Battle - New Year's Concert (1987)Deutsche Grammophon

1987 January 1, For the first time, Karajan conducted the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert in the Great Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. The event was broadcast to millions of TV viewers worldwide.

Herbert von Karajan (1978) by © Siegfried Lauterwasser / DGDeutsche Grammophon

1989 July 16, Herbert von Karajan died of heart failure at his home in Anif, near Salzburg. Since his death, the charismatic Austrian artist has continued to inspire countless music-lovers worldwide thanks to his monumental legacy of Deutsche Grammophon recordings.

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Text by: Deutsche Grammophon

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