cover image Karajan: Notes on a Career

Karajan: Notes on a Career

Robert C. Bachmann. Pantheon Books, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40628-0

Bachmann, a Swiss music critic, notes in a fussy introduction that he interviewed Karajan (1908-1989) often and that an authorized biography was planned--but that whenever he probed too hard for facts, the conductor became evasive, and eventually the project was dropped. The book thus does not cover the whole life, and there are gaps that Bachmann, though obviously an excellent researcher, could not fill in. On the most controversial matter, however--Karajan's longtime membership in the Nazi party--Bachmann is unequivocal and offers the appropriate documents. He also outlines the ways in which Karajan's membership benefited the Nazis, rightly stressing that no public figure in those times was apolitical. The book is largely a psychological portrait, rather heavy-handed and repetitious but thorough. Bachmann sees Karajan as a man of limitless ambition but ultimate insecurity who created a fantasy world around himself and his music. Because of his urge for perfection, his lack of personal creativity, his unresponsiveness to contemporary cultural currents and his limitations as an opera director, Karajan's legacy, Bachmann suspects, will be minimal, despite his immense power in his lifetime. (Sept.)