Karl Böhm

Karl Böhm

Karl August Leopold Böhm (August 28, 1894 – August 14, 1981) was an Austrian conductor.


Born in Graz, Austria, Böhm studied law and earned a doctorate on this subject. He later studied music at the Graz Conservatory. On the recommendation of Karl Muck, Bruno Walter engaged him at Munich's Bavarian State Opera in 1921. Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931) were the next places he resided as a young conductor, before succeeding Fritz Busch as head of Dresden's Semper Opera in 1934. He secured a top post at the Vienna State Opera in 1943, eventually becoming music director.

Böhm's career prospered after the war, with his native country usually the focus of his work. The Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival featured prominently. He additionally resumed ties in Dresden, at the Staatskapelle. He conducted at Bayreuth in 1966 and 1967, resulting in critically acclaimed recordings of the entire Ring cycle and also "Tristan und Isolde". Late in life, he began a guest-conducting relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) in a 1973 appearance with the LSO at the Salzburg Festival. [cite news | author=Stephen Everson | title=The lovable dictator | url=http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,1070457,00.html | work=The Guardian | date=25 October 2003 | accessdate=2007-09-15] He was given the title of LSO President, which he held until his death.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to music lay in bringing to life the operas of his close colleague Richard Strauss. Böhm led the premieres of Strauss's late works "Die Schweigsame Frau" (1935) and "Daphne" (1938), of which he is the dedicatee, recorded all of the major operas (often making cuts to the scores), and regularly revived Strauss's operas with strong casts during his tenures in Vienna and Dresden, as well as at the Salzburg Festival.

Böhm was praised for his rhythmically robust interpretations of the operas and symphonies of Mozart, and in the 1960s he was entrusted with recording a full cycle of the symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. Böhm's brisk and plain way with Wagner won adherents, as did his readings of the symphonies of Brahms, Bruckner and Schubert. His 1971 recorded cycle of Beethoven's symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic likewise drew high regard. On a less common front, Böhm championed and made recordings of Alban Berg's operas "Wozzeck" and "Lulu" before they gained a position in the repertory.

He received numerous honours, among them first Austrian Generalmusikdirektor in 1964. He was widely feted on his 80th birthday, ten years later; his colleague Herbert von Karajan presented him with a clock to mark that occasion.

Böhm died in Salzburg. Actor Karlheinz Böhm, the conductor's son, is known for his role as the young Emperor Franz Joseph in the three Sissi movies, and for playing Jakob Grimm opposite Laurence Harvey's Wilhelm Grimm, in the 1962 MGM-Cinerama spectacular "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm".

Nazi era

It is believed that Böhm was an early sympathizer of the Nazi party, although he never became a member. In November 1923 he stopped a rehearsal in the Munich opera house in order, reportedly, to watch Adolf Hitler's "Beer Hall Putsch".cite book | last=Lebrecht | first=Norman | title=The Maestro Myth: Great conductors in pursuit of power | pages=pp. 109-110| location=Secaucus, NJ | publisher=Carol Publishing Group | year=1991 | isbn=1559721081] In 1930 he is said to have become angry when his wife was accused by Nazi brownshirts of being Jewish during the premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's opera "Von heute auf morgen" and to have stated that he would "tell Hitler about this". When he was music director in Darmstadt and Hamburg he allegedly complained of "too many Jews" among the musicians he worked with.

While music director in Dresden he "poured forth rhetoric glorifying the Nazi regime and its cultural aims" according to one commentator. [cite book
title=The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich
first=Michael H
publisher=Oxford University Press
location=New York

A more certain story is that in the wake of the Nazi annexation of Austria he gave the Hitler salute during a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, ironically violating Nazi rules about places where the greeting was appropriate. After the referendum controlled by the Nazis to justify the annexation, or "Anschluss", the conductor allegedly declared that "anyone who does not approve this act of our "Führer" with a hundred-per-cent YES does not deserve to bear the honourable name of a German!"

Works (selection)

*Symphony no. 5 in E minor, op. 64 (Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky) (recorded in June 1980 with London Symphony Orchestra)


External links

*imdb name|0127037

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