Karajan : The privilege of doing music

Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) conducting. Austrian conductor c. 1972

« “I have often said to the orchestra, especially to the younger players, ‘Do your best, and love what you are doing, because you are allowed to do this thing.’ By this I mean, they can do what millions of people cannot do. Many people cannot think of playing music or listening to it until six o’clock in the evening. To be involved professionally in a thing as creative as this is a great privilege and we have a duty to make it in such a way that we can help bring pleasure and a sense of fulfillment to those who are not so fortunate.”
Herbert von Karajan

Many of my critics write, and will go on writing, that I conduct too lavishly. That may be so. During my day people have been somewhat extravagant in terms of art and music. I believed this was the right attitude to adopt, and so I’ve supported it. It has something to do with respect towards art, and if this respect is old-fashioned, so be it, I’ve no intention of dissociating myself from it. When I was young, we approached music with a sense of awe and celebrated each such approach as a special event. I can see, of course, that times have changed, that people don’t want to know about respect any longer, and that it is not in keeping with the times to celebrate a concert. People are going to great lengths to make themselves ugly, to wear ugly clothes, and to feel precious little enthusiasm for beauty. I’ve been observing this for years…I know there is nothing that can be done at present to change all this. But no one can expect me to seek a polite or understanding explanation for this, still less that I should agree with it and conform. I belong to a different age. And what I want to preserve for myself and posterity also belongs to a different age.”

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