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Karajan, the triple pianist

In view of yesterday’s hugely enthusiastic response to the late maestro’s displacement activities in Mozart’s piano concerto K467, we are delighted to share the rare, triple-camera recording of Herbie playing the Mozart three-piano concerto with renowned boy band members Justus Frantz and Christoph Eschenbach. The orchestre, frozen in a fuzzy backdrop, is apparently de Paris.

Top credits go to the hair stylists. Herbie was done by Max Klinger, the man who made the Beethoven statue.

Christoph was sponsored by a Lower East Side sheitl-maker, while Justus steps straight out of a Family Osmond TV special. Priceless.

The two professional pianists recorded this concerto in Abbey Road with Helmut Schmidt, the German chancellor of the day. I have the EMI original.

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  1. Steve de Mena says:

    The EMI recording you speak of with Helmut Schmidt was most certainly issued on CD. As was a similar DG CD of Bach Keyboard concerti.

  2. Yesterday’s bit was from “Grand Échiquier”, a popular French television show in which Jacques Chancel played host to prominent musicians for an alternance of performances and flattering chitchat. Karajan came with the full Berlin Philharmonic in June 1978.

    The seatwarmer was some guy called Alexis Weissenberg, by the way.

    If I recall well, they joked that Weissenberg was tired from a series of concerts he had just given and that Karajan would allow him to take a break by standing in for the adagio.

    Other performances, taken from Karajan’s usual repertoire of short popular pieces, brought in a 13- or 14-year-old Anne-Sophie Mutter in the “Thaïs” meditation as well as Rostropovič and Freni.

    I don’t know about any editing for the piano part, but take into account that, as far as I know, this programme was only repeated in 1999, on the 10th anniversary of Karajan’s death, and that this video might be a transfer from an old tape.

    Oddly, the rare existing recording of Karajan at the keyboard are almost all on video, and are almost all related to France. He was in France for the Mozart recording and for this one (Paris Orchestra indeed, 1971); the 1967 films of Bach’s 2nd and 3rd orchestral suites and 3rd Brandenburg concerto were directed by François Reichenbach; and we also have Karajan playing a few bars with Menuhin in the bonus to Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1966 “Turkish Concerto”.

  3. Eschenbach’s architecturally special comb-over wins the prize.

  4. Neil van der Linden says:

    Justus Frantz and Christoph Eschenbach look like two members of the Bay City Rollers. But that was the hair fashion of the time.

  5. Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

    I heard and saw Karajan conduct and play harpsichord continuo in the Bach Suites and Brandenburgs with members of the BPO in Carnegie Hall so many years ago it’s embarrassing to remember. It’s the only time I’ve seen Karajan at the keyboard live. Not much is ever said about his brother Wolfgang who was an organist and recorded the Art of the Fugue.

  6. Your hair-commentary is spot on, and I am not one to cut Karajan slack.. but I must commend them for polish and procedure, as the O.d.P is as meticulously combed as the soloists are. They seem well rehearsed and went to quite a bit of trouble to coordinate bowings and play without music (actually, the first desk seems to have music stands position quite low an out of the camera eye). Essentially, however, it fails: Lawrence Welk-style staged music-making for a different set of eyes, ears, and aesthetic values, but still commodified kitsch.

  7. I guess this was filmed in the manner which was customary for Karajan?
    ie. the musicians are synchronizing to a playback of their own recording.
    Of course, i can understand the practicalities for this but there’s a tangible loss of spontaneity.

    A good example of this technique is the Weissenberg/Petrushka film (where he’s filmed playing a dummy piano)but even that has a stilted quality which leaves me a little uneasy.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      And his famed film of the Verdi Requiem where parts are lip-synced.
      Including his own lips.

  8. Indeed. It’s easy to understand from all this why there was such a strong bond between him and Glenn Gould.

  9. Robert Kenchington says:

    You don’t like Karajan very much, do you, Mr Lebrecht? I appreciate he was by no means an angel (any more than Bernstein) but surely you can find SOMETHING in his actual music-making that pleases you?

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