Who was Herbert von Karajan? What lurks behind the enigmatic face of this man, on whom more has been written than on any other member of his profession? For many, he was the epitome of classical music, for others the embodiment of the music market. He was the last dictator among orchestral conductors, and the first successful large-scale music entrepreneur. And in everything he did, he was ahead of his time.
This documentary is the first to truly penetrate behind Karajan's regal façade. The program is structured along the personal recollections and interviews, the rehearsals and concerts of the maestro. Much of the material has been drawn from the archives of Unitel, the firm that produced his music films for 12 years. This footage is supplemented by many candid and revealing comments by some of the men and women who accompanied him on his path to legendary status. The result is a multi-faceted, multi-layered portrait of the artist – a portrait that ultimately deepens the mystery of one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.
Directed by Robert Dornhelm (War and Peace), the film includes statements by Karajan's wife and daughters, by professionals of the music industry, and by such great artists as Gundula Janowitz, Yevgeni Kissin, René Kollo, Mariss Jansons, Christa Ludwig, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Sir Georg Solti and Christian Thielemann. From the tears Karajan shed upon listening to Yevgeni Kissin's piano playing to statements such as: "If there is still so much within me that must be expressed and my body refuses to comply, then nature must provide me with another body" – the film sheds light on the full spectrum of a profoundly mesmerizing and contradictory personality.