Norman Lebrecht on “The clapped-out legacy of Karajan that impoverished classical music”

According to Norman Lebrecht

One aspect of the Karajan debate, raised by Dominic Lawson, is whether “we should join in the celebrations of the life of an ex-Nazi” – a man who never recanted his political affiliation. Lawson broadened the issue to discuss whether a bad man can make good art, and how we should relate to art from a tainted source. That question, relevant to Wagner, is incidental to Karajan who never created an original work.

Whether Herbert von Karajan was a bad man or a good man is immaterial. He was a brilliant organiser with the gift of tuning an orchestra to his personal sound, an ability that he exploited to extreme ends. He inflicted his ego on the world of classical music in a way that crushed independence and creativity and damaged its image for future generations. It is not the bad man he was that we should deplore but the reactionary and exclusivist legacy which is being “celebrated”. For music lovers, there is not much to celebrate. Once the centenary is over, we will drop the curtain once and for all on a discreditable life that yielded no fresh thought and upheld no worthwhile human value. Karajan is dead. Music is much better off without him.


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