To honor Karl Böhm on the 100th anniversary of his birth, Unitel put
together a one-hour portrait of the great conductor, who was an exclusive
artist of Unitel from 1966 until his death on 14 August 1981.
Karl Böhm was born in Graz, Austria, on 28 August 1894. He made his
conducting debut in his hometown in 1917 before going on to Munich in 1921,
where he was hired by Bruno Walter. He made his debut at the Vienna State
Opera in 1933 and was appointed general manager of the Dresden State Opera
the same year. This marked the beginning of an intensive and fruitful
collaboration with Richard Strauss (Böhm conducted the world premieres of
Die schweigsame Frau and Daphne). He died in Salzburg on 14 August 1981.
One of the hallmarks of Böhm's conducting was its perennially youthful
vigor and directness, its lack of pathos and sentimentality. Dramatic
climaxes and full sonorities grew out of almost imperceptible accents, out
of the natural rhythm of the human breath. His gestures were minimalistic,
his baton suggested movement more than it described it. Böhm set standards
with his interpretations of the works of his long-time friend Richard
Strauss. The unofficial curator of Strauss' musical legacy, Böhm knew his
friend's music inside and out - and he knew just how Strauss wanted his
works to sound.
Böhm's Mozart interpretations reflect the naturalness and clarity of his
conducting. Although Wagner was one of his first loves, Böhm soon
discovered Mozart's operas thanks to Bruno Walter. Later, Böhm's friendship
with Richard Strauss led to a still deeper knowledge and appreciation of
Mozart. In his autobiography, Böhm wrote that "Richard Strauss revealed to
me the ultimate secrets of this - in my opinion - greatest of all musical
geniuses [Mozart]." Böhm's discovery of these secrets transformed his
Mozart interpretations into unforgettable events.