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The Wand Masters: Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan

Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan; two very different maestros, two very unique styles; two contemporaries expressing their common ‘call’ in very distinct ways.

The two maestros appreciated each other and there is a rumour that they were planning to collaborate, late in their lives. This plan sadly didn’t materialise. Still, by these men living in the 20th century we are given the opportunity to listen to their interpretations and get glimpses of their ways of conducting life and music freely online.

I got hooked the other day listening to Bernstein after I started watching his Norton Lectures at Harvard on Music (via openculture). I was impressed by the interdisciplinary take of this modern man. So I started listening to him and was fascinated by his  (American) style of referring to his mentors throughout his career and giving a lot of importance on mentoring and education.

It was at that point that I felt the need to check out Karajan’s style, which seemed to me a lot more controlled, a more traditional approach, appropriate for an Austrian man.

The first cd I listened to in my life was the Deutsche Grammophon’s recording of Bethoven’s 9th Symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. It was a memorable introduction to the then new quality of sound. The surprise has stayed with me. So it was absolutely great when so many years later, that is few months ago, I found on the the itunes store an app for ipads for the 9th symphony (by Touchpress). This absolutely beautiful, easy to use app is made to help us explore and appreciate Beethoven’s music on two versions, a free one and a paid one. There you can listen to Karajan’s, Bernstein’s and others interpretation of this music, the development and use of the orchestra, the dynamics and the choices they made. It is a great app for all of us lay people to explore and understand the beauty of Beethoven’s music.

But it seems that there is always a visionary behind a masterpiece. So here are two interviews shedding some light into the personalities of Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan respectively. Two people that passed on some great old music down the to us to enjoy.

Leonard Bernstein

“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another… and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”

“Teachers and Teaching” is an autobiographical documentary by Bernstein about his mentors and his ethics as a maestro teacher (duration: 1hr)

Herbert von Karajan

“If I still have so many things left to say and my body lets me down then it’s up to nature to give me another body. The greatest goal is to see one’s profession as a calling.”

“Karajan Or Beauty As I See it” is a documentary about the life and work of Herbert von Karajan by Robert Dornhelm. (duration: 1hr32mins)

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Epicurus Quote

If we resist the senses, we have nothing left to which we can refer, or by which we may judge, the falsehood of the senses which we condemn.

 

Epicurus

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