Karajan's Magic and Myth

2014   BBC Four

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Twenty-five years after the death of the world's most successful conductor, Herbert von Karajan, his classical recordings are still best-sellers. Yet he has always had his critics, who regard his performances as over-polished and lacking spiritual depth.  This musical profile by John Bridcut explores the many paradoxes in the life and music of this controversial figure, who forged his international reputation in London shortly after the end of the second world war, and went on to reign supreme in the classical music world during his three decades with the Berlin Philharmonic.  Those who worked closely with Karajan (including the singers Placido Domingo and Jessye Norman, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, the conductors Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Neville Marriner, and the flautist Sir James Galway) speak of his almost magical power as a conductor, and the reality that lay behind the Karajan myth.


1 x 90'    A 1212 Production


Photography Vaughan Matthews
Sound Patrick Boland
Research Tanya Cochrane
Archive Research Pia Bernauer, Tricia Power, Val Evans
Thanks to Karajan Institute, Eric Schulz, Linda Perkins, Anna Chromy, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Richard Osborne
Dubbing Mixer Rowan Jennings
Colourist Michael Sanders
Online Editor Dominic McMahon
Production Coordinator Kathleen Parker
Head of Production Zoe Loizou
Executive Producer Philip Armstrong-Dampier
Film Editors Philip Reynolds, Riaz Meer
Written, narrated and directed by John Bridcut




"The week's outstanding documentary... another brilliant piece by John Bridcut, a mythical magician of classical music documentaries" 

Financial Times

'John Bridcut's superb profile surveyed the Salzburg-born Karajan as if he were Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn, considering the contradictions in his character as though studying aspects of the landscape at different times of day amid changing weather conditions. Monomaniacal and power-crazed, or a generous collaborator with esteemed colleagues? A self-obsessed narcissist, or a dashing man of the future with a vision of how new technology could transform the public's understanding of music? An artistic genius, or a gifted actor playing the part of one?'   

Adam Sweeting, www.theartsdesk.com

"This engrossing profile... benefits from some tremendous archive footage"        

Sunday Times

'Hugely engaging'

The Guardian

'John Bridcut's excellent documentary'

The Times

'One of the best docs about classical music BBC Four has ever aired... by the peerless John Bridcut"

Radio Times, Documentary of the Week

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