Herbert von Karajan

A Chronology


Born in Salzburg on April 5. The Karajan family originally came from Macedonia in Northern Greece and bore the name Karajannis. Herbert von Karajan’s great-great-grandfather emigrated to Saxony but eventually settled as a merchant in Vienna. For his services in the furtherance of trade and industry, Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony, raised him to the nobility on 1 June 1792. As knights of the Holy Roman Empire, the Karajannis family henceforth called themselves “Karajan”.


First piano lessons from the well-known teacher and impresario Franz Ledwinka.


Performs for the first time in public, at a charity concert.

1916 – 26

Studies at the Mozarteum Conservatory in Salzburg, taught by Franz Ledwinka, Franz Sauer and Bernhard Paumgartner, the last of whom also encourages him to be trained as a conductor.


January 27: First public appearance as a pianist at the Mozarteum.


Graduates from the Classical Secondary School in Salzburg, with a paper about “Thermodynamics and Internal Combustion Engines”. Graduate of the Mozarteum.

1926 – 28

Studies at the Vienna College of Technology and at the Institute of Musicology at Vienna University.

1926 – 29

Studies at the Vienna School of Music (piano) and qualifies as a conductor.


December 17: First conducts in public in Vienna during a concert given by students of Alexander Wunderer’s conducting class.


January 22:  First public appearance as a conductor in Salzburg. April 19: Conducts Salome at the Festspielhaus, Salzburg.

1929 – 34

Engaged as principal conductor at the Stadttheater, Ulm. Responsible for summer courses for conducting at the Mozarteum International Foundation. Guest conductor with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.


August 21: Conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker for the first time in Salzburg.

1934 – 42

Responsible for opera and symphony concerts at Aachen opera house.


June 1: Conducts at the Vienna State Opera for the first time (Tristan und Isolde).


April 8: Conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time. September 30: Debut at the Berlin State Opera in Fidelio. October 21: International triumph with Tristan und Isolde at the same venue – hailed by a Berlin critic as “The Karajan Miracle”. First contract with the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft (extending until 1943). First recording: Magic Flute Overture, with the Berlin Staatskapelle.


Appointed Staatskapellmeister at the Berlin State Opera.


January 12: First post-war concert, in Vienna with the Wiener Philharmoniker. First contacts with Walter Legge, Artistic Director of Columbia Records and founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra, London. Assisted at the Salzburg Festival.


October: First collaboration with the Singverein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna.

1948 – 49

Appearances at the Salzburg Festival.

1948 –

Artistic Director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. Principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra; close collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra, London. Associate conductor of La Scala, Milan. Numerous guest appearances in Europe and overseas. Runs courses for conductors in Lucerne; appearances at the Lucerne Festival.

1951 – 52

Conducts at the Bayreuth Festival.


Appointed principal conductor (from 1956 for life) of the Berliner Philharmoniker as successor to Wilhelm Furtwängler.

1957 – 60

Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival.

1957 – 64

Artistic Director of the Vienna State Opera; collaboration with La Scala, Milan.


October 6: Marries Eliette Mouret.


Renewed collaboration with the Deutsche Grammophon. First stereo recording: Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.


June 25: Birth of daughter Isabel (with the Wiener Philharmoniker acting as godparents).


October 15: Opening concert of the Philharmonie in Berlin (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony). Release of the recording of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies as an integral cycle, which proves to be one of the most successful projects in classical recording history.

1963 – 68

Exclusive contract with the Deutsche Grammophon


January 2: Birth of daughter Arabel (with the Berliner Philharmoniker acting as godparents). August: Appointed to board of directors of the Salzburg Festival.

1965 –

Production of films of concerts and operas, with Karajan acting as conductor and director; cooperation with French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot.


Inauguration of the Salzburg Easter Festival; founder and Artistic Director: Herbert von Karajan. March 19: Opening of the Easter Festival with a performance of Die Walküre.


March 4: Bestowal of a Ring by Salzburg Province. April 4: Given freedom of the City of Salzburg. April 8: Awarded the Golden Gramophone by Deutsche Grammophon “as a token of admiration and gratitude”. August 14: Appointed Honorary Senator of Salzburg University. Establishment of the Herbert von Karajan Foundation in Berlin, for the encouragement of scientific work on the dissemination of conscious musical feeling. The foundation also organizes a competition for young conductors.


Establishment of a Research Institute of the Herbert von Karajan Foundation for Experimental Psychology in Music, as part of the Psychological Institute at the University of Salzburg. August 31: Awarded the Arts Prize of the City of Lucerne.


New exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.


Inauguration of the Salzburg Whitsun Concerts; founder and Director: Herbert von Karajan.


May 12: Receives Honorary Doctorate from Salzburg University. June 21: Receives Honorary Doctorate from Oxford University.


Prize of the French President for all new recordings made in the year 1978 as part of the Grand Prix international du disque awarded by the Charles Cros Academy in Paris. April 2: Musical inauguration of the International Congress Centre (ICC) in Berlin by Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker. May 17: Karajan patronizes a new foundation bearing his name – gift of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde – which is dedicated in the main to scientific investigation in the neuro-physiological field. October 13: Named Honorary Doctor of Philosophy of the Waseda University, Tokyo.


January: First digital recording in Berlin (Mozart’s The Magic Flute). August: The Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus presents Karajan with the gold Clemens Krauss Medal. December 7: Celebration concert in Berlin on the occasion of Karajan’s 25th anniversary as principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker.


April 15: Presentation of the “Compact Disc Digital Audio System” during the Salzburg Easter Festival. May: Release of Deutsche Grammophon’s “Karajan Symphony Edition”: 28 LPs, comprising six complete symphonic cycles by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Tchaikovsky, compiled from recordings made in the 1960s and 1970s. July 27: Karajan is awarded the Cyril and Methodius Order, First Class, at the Council of Ministers building, Sofia, “for his outstanding services in collaboration with Bulgarian artists”. December 1: With the Berliner Philharmoniker, Karajan gives a concert for the first time in the new Gewandhaus in Leipzig.


Foundation of Telemondial S.A.M., which, under the Maestro’s personal direction, will produce Karajan’s complete repertoire again for the video disc: a new audio-visual medium. Video discs – in which Karajan has complete artistic control of sound and film – will appear only when the equipment of reproduction has reached that necessary level of perfection which Karajan has aspired to all his life. February: Eliette von Karajan’s debut as a painter, exhibiting her pictures on the record sleeves for the “Karajan Edition” in the new “Galleria” series. 50 original paintings adorn 50 record sleeves for 100 works by composers ranging from Vivaldi to Stravinsky. April 30/May 1: Gala concerts to mark the 100th anniversary of the Berliner Philharmoniker. June 12: Presentation of the first Compact Disc (Strauss’s Alpine Symphony) to Karajan while he is in Hamburg on tour with the Berliner Philharmoniker. June 14: Mayor Jacques Chirac presents Karajan with the “Médaille de Vermeil” in the Paris City Hall. July 29: Salzburg Festival – Karajan’s first ever recording of Puccini’s Turandot (with Katia Ricciarelli and Plácido Domingo) is presented to the public. August 2: First concert given by the Herbert von Karajan Foundation (for vocal studies) in Salzburg. October: First USA tour with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1976. The tour is celebrated as a triumphant return, and the Maestro is greeted by standing ovations in Carnegie Hall, New York. December: The Governor of Salzburg, Dr. Wilfried Haslauer, presents Karajan (as principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker) with a commemorative plaque, celebrating the orchestra’s artistic participation at the Salzburg Festival over 25 years.


March: The Royal Philharmonic Society, London, honours Karajan with its Gold Medal. April 5: Karajan celebrates his 75th birthday in his home town of Salzburg. The province of Salzburg marks the occasion by issuing a commemorative postage stamp. July 26: The Salzburg Festival opens with a new production of Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier (producer and conductor: Herbert von Karajan). A Deutsche Grammophon recording of this opera, with the Maestro conducting Agnes Baltsa, Janet Perry, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Kurt Moll and the Wiener Philharmoniker, is released in Summer 1984. August: UNESCO awards Karajan its International Music Prize. Karajan announces that he has agreed to produce two concerts per year, until 1986, with the Berliner Philharmoniker, for German Television (ZDF Channel). These concerts are broadcast live, with Karajan assuming complete artistic control.


The first digital recording of the complete Beethoven Symphonies with Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker is released on CD by Deutsche Grammophon. The complete Beethoven cycle is filmed by Telemondial.


February: Awarded the Golden Camera by Hör zu magazine. April 2: Karajan signs a new long-term contract with Deutsche Grammophon. June 29: During a celebration of Solemn High Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, for the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, led by Pope John Paul II, Karajan conducts the Vienna Singverein and the Wiener Philharmoniker in Mozart’s Coronation Mass. This marks the first time that an orchestra is allowed in the Holy City to participate during a Mass. Worldwide television coverage and a Telemondial film follows. August: Receives the Honorary Ring of the Salzburg Festival, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Grosses Festspielhaus. December 7: 30th anniversary as principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker.


January 25–26: Festive concert in Berlin commemorating the centenary of the birth of Wilhelm Furtwängler. Verdi’s Don Carlos performed at the Salzburg Easter Festival; the cast includes José Carreras, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Fiamma Izzo D’Amico and Agnes Baltsa, with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Live television broadcast in many European countries. June: In recognition of his artistic achievements, especially at the Easter, Whitsun and Summer Salzburg Festivals, Karajan receives, at a ceremony in Athens, the Olympia Award of the Alexander Onassis Foundation; the prize-money goes towards the promotion of talented young singers. August 23: Presentation of Karajan’s first recording of Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Festival with Samuel Ramey in the title role, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, Kathleen Battle, Gösta Winbergh, Ferruccio Furlanetto and the Berliner Philharmoniker.


January 1: Karajan conducts for the first time the New Year’s Concert of the Wiener Philharmoniker in the Great Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. Worldwide television relay. New production of Don Giovanni at the Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals. May 1: Opening concert of the 750th anniversary celebrations of the city of Berlin with works by Mozart (Divertimento K 334) and Richard Strauss (Also sprach Zarathustra). June: Tour of European capital cities (London, Brussels and Paris) with the Berliner Philharmoniker. October 28: Inaugural concert of the new Chamber-Music Hall of the Philharmonie in Berlin; Karajan conducts Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist. November: Highly acclaimed six-city tour of West Germany with the Berliner Philharmoniker.


Spring: Karajan Edition “100 Masterpieces”, on 25 CDs, decorated with paintings by Eliette von Karajan, is released by Deutsche Grammophon in celebration of Karajan’s 80th birthday on April 5. Early recordings from 1938–43 are released for the first time on CD, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Karajan’s association with Deutsche Grammophon. April/May: Tour of Japan with the Berliner Philharmoniker. October: Tour of Europe and the USA with the Berliner Philharmoniker.


February: Last guest appearance in the USA with the Wiener Philharmoniker. July 16: While in the process of rehearsing for Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, Herbert von Karajan dies of heart failure in his house in Anif near Salzburg.