Post by Steven de Mena Post by Dana John Hill Post by Simon Roberts
Am I right in thinking that Karajan's only Decca recordings with the BPO were
Boheme and Butterfly? If so, was this for contractual reasons involving the
orchestra? (I get the impression that his only VPO recordings on DG were from
the period when he and the BPO "fell out".)
Isn't the Butterfly (with Freni and Pavarotti) with the VPO?
I believe so. Actually there are probably many VPO opera recordings with
Karajan in the 70s and 80s. They probably played in many of his Salzburg
The orchestra for the Karajan productions in Salzburg from the mid-60s
onwards was usually the Berliner Philharmoniker. This was legally a
different body from the Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester which was
run by the senate of Berlin and which employed the musicians, and
Karajan as their principal conductor. The Berliner Philharmoniker
(literally, the Berlin Philharmonics or Philharmonic people) was a
private organization of the members of the BPhO with the status of a
privat club or association. They played in recordings and appeared in
Salzburg during their free times and holidays. These "two lifes" which
were however never really separated since they usually recorded the
same things they also played in the concerts, so in effect, the senate,
in addition to subsidizing the BPhO, also subsidized their private
extra business because they could use the rehearsals for the concerts
for their own recordings under their own control.
This double life was sometimes heavily criticized, but the orchestra
was seen as too precious as an ambassador of culture from Berlin to
touch these arrangements. They continued through the Abbado era, and it
was mostly Sir Simon who made it a condition of his coming to Berlin to
reform the orchestra and get rid of that double life. That's why it is
now only called Berliner Philharmoniker, and legally it is a foundation
now. However, the senate is still the main contributor to the
foundation. But all income now goes into that one pot.
I think Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker were more or less
exclusively bound to each other from a certain time on, but exceptions
could be made in mutual agreement. When the big clash came, he
cancelled his part of the contract but let them know that he would
still be in Berlin to fulfill his contractual obligations to the
Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester. Strangely, his contract as
principal conductor of that body only demanded 5 or 6 programs each
season from him in that function. But throughout most of their
relationship, he appeared much more often with the orchestra, both the
BPhO and the BP.
He apparently thought that the orchestra would be so shocked by his
cancellation of the recording contract that they would just come
crawling back to him. But they didn't. They took the opportunity to
fill the free time with recordings under Levine (the Saint-Saens 3rd
symphony and the album of 2nd Viennese School were made then) and made
other arrangements with other conductors.
The Wiener Philharmoniker on the other hand were very happy to answer
Karajan's call which they could easily do since that orchestra is also
a private organization of the members of the Wiener
Staatsopernorchester. So scheduling was never a big problem for them -
since they are their own employer in that form, no work rules govern
how much they do in addition to their regular service in the opera.
Culshaw recalls in his Ring book how they played opera rehearsals in
the morning, recording sessions in the afternoon, opera in the evening
and on at least one occasion, all came back for more session work late
at night (!).
Now, the Falstaff recording was before the big clash in Berlin, so I
don't know what the story is behind that one, but like I said, even
though there was some kind of exclusive agreement, there were no
hurdles to losing it in mutual agreement as long as the athmosphere was
still good. I believe the Rachmaninoff recordings with Maazel were also
made before the clash.