Respighi: Pines of Rome - Karajan 1984

This clip:

demonstrates just how different the legacy of Karajan could have been. Its taken from a concert in 1984 in Osaka, the Berlin Philharmonic played a Mozart: Divertimento, Strauss: Don Juan and Respighi: Pines of Rome. This link to the final movement, the Pines of the Appian Way highlights how badly we need someone to trawl the archives of Japanese TV to pull out similar gems.

The video itself shows how well a TV director can present orchestra and conductor in concert, as opposed to the horribly staged videos which mixed concert and specially filmed footage for Sony in the ten years before his death. The director for both may well have been Karajan - but he's constrained in the live situation and the result is more coherent.

The performance too is one we wouldn't have got from the archive Karajan was amassing for Sony - but it is a piece in which he excels. Moreover we see Karajan in a very different mode to the slick authoritarian conductor of the 1970's Unitel films or the frail old man of the Sony hybrid performances. Here we have Karajan the showman - hardly conducting the orchestra at all, looking to all intents bemused by the music. The climax which Respighi builds is impressive (or over the top depending on your sensibilities) but with the Berlin Philharmonic the weight of tone is something special. Karajan's intensity at the height just adds to the experience and yet when its finished and the audience erupts, the smile on the old man's face shows that he was in on Respighi's joke and that above all this music needs showmanship of the highest order to make its mark.

There are stacks more performance from Japanese tours by BPO and VPO with Karajan that are worth investigating. Is there a recording of their Stravinsky: Firebird Suite for example.

There's also this 1957 video of Wagner: Die Meistersinger overture


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