Preview of Karajan, Or Beauty as I See It

As music director of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years, Herbert von Karajan remains one of the most discussed, analyzed and written-about conductors of all time. He was called the ‘General Music Director of Europe,’ leading orchestras and opera houses in Berlin, London, Vienna, Milan and Paris to become one of the most respected, yet intimidating, conductors of the 20th century. Yet behind his imperious, enigmatic face, who really was Herbert von Karajan? For many, he was the epitome of classical music—for others, the last dictator among orchestral conductors, as well as one of the post-War era’s most commercially successful classical music entrepreneurs. Yet all agree that in everything he did, he was ahead of his time. Twenty years after Karajan’s death, Karajan Or Beauty As I See It airs in HD on PBS’ Great Performances on THIRTEEN Monday, August 31st at 10 p.m. EST (check local listings).

Watch a preview of Karajan, or Beauty as I See It:

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Featuring extensive performance sequences from rehearsals and concerts, as well as rare archival material, this performance documentary is the first film to truly penetrate Karajan’s regal façade. Supplementing the extraordinary performances are candid and revealing comments by some of the era’s leading artists who accompanied him on his path to legendary status.

Directed by Robert Dornhelm (director of the acclaimed 2007 mini-series adaptation of War and Peace, as well as GP’s upcoming big-screen adaptation of La Boheme starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón), the film features forthright commentary by such Karajan friends and colleagues as Evgeny Kissin, Mariss Jansons, Christa Ludwig, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle, Elisabeth Scharzkopf, Sir George Solti and many others, along with personal insights from Karajan’s wife and daughters, as well as the maestro himself. “I don’t just want it to sound beautiful,” said Karajan, “I want it to look beautiful as well—for music is an embodiment of beauty.” The film’s final effect is a multi-faceted portrait that sheds new light on the full spectrum of a profoundly mesmerizing and contradictory personality.

Karajan, or Beauty as I See It is a production of Unitel and MR Film in co-production with ORF, ZDF, SF, SMG and Classica, with support from Fernsehfonds Austria. Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Major funding is also provided by The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund and the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust. For Great Performances, John Walker is producer and Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.