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Karajan’s Vienna producer is no more

We have been informed of the sad death of Ewald Markl, Deutsche Grammophon’s executive producer in Vienna for much of his career. He was 73 and had gone into hospital for heart surgery.

His credit appeared on dozens of recordings and he facilitated many more. Here’s an interview he gave to Arte about working with Karajan.

ewald markl2

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  1. Wish you had provided a translation. I speak fluent German but some of this is difficult to grasp. Sort of like a German progam about Justin Bieber (dare I mention him in the same breath as von Karajan?!?!) a Facebook friend sent me that took 7 or 8 tries to get the gist of. My ears aren’t attuned to German passive voice. I sang a Faust under HVK in Berlin eons ago–he was a tyrant! But I grew up around that kind of German. One of my mentors, Prof. Arthur Laabs was far more tyrannical. So I shrugged it off!

    • If you find this interview difficult to read and understand then you don’t understand German very well and you certainly don’t speak it fluently. If you did you would know that the “von” is actually left out when you talk about a “von” person in German.

      So in what Faust did you allegedly sing under him?

      • re the “von” Ich habe das NICHT gewussen. Es war nicht mir lehren. I took 7 semesters of German in college–blew 1st semester because I had trouble reconciling Hoch Deutsche mit das Dialect dammit bin Ich abgewesen! The Graduate Assistant was more frustrated on that count than I! Took German 100 again following semester, very patient teacher who was from Weinhem, near Schweigern wo mein Vater war ausgekommen. So she spoke the dialect, was able to clarify a lot of things, understood a lot of the colloquialisms & regionalisms my parents spoke. From there, it was downhill! Final semester, had a very creative teacher who would have us write German captions for comic strips. I just found a delightful “Peanuts” book in German I sent to my nephew & his wife in Iowa. Nicole is teaching Grant French & Lee is teaching him German!

  2. Alexander Hall says:

    There isn’t any preponderance of the passive voice in the Arte interview, despite what PK Miller claims. There are also few new insights into what we already know about arguably the greatest conductor in the 20th century. The fact that he worked for between 30 and 45 minutes just on the bridge passage between the third and fourth movements of Schumann’s fourth symphony is one example of how he constantly strove for the perfection decried by critics content with less. Ewald Markl’s reference to Karajan’s never-ending patience in rehearsal and the way he would relieve tension with anecdotes and jokes – yes, the man actually had a sense of humour! – and the fact that he never witnessed a single outburst from him offer compelling evidence that he was not the “tyrant” that some believed him to be.

  3. Graf Nugent says:

    I know of no other twentieth-century conductor whose stock fell so spectacularly after his death than Karajan’s. Maybe it was the nascent obsession with so-called ‘authentic performance practice’ that did for the reputation of some of his recordings but it’s interesting to witness a gentle rehabilitation, if only in the form of Ewald Markl’s 2008 interview.

    By the way, the interview should be perfectly straightforward for any fluent German speaker…

    • I don’t think it’s true t all that his “stock fell spectacularly” after his death. Karajan recordings are still constantly reissued by DG so there must be people who still buy them. Both EMI and DG marked his centenary in 2008 with lavish complete editions of his complete recordings for these labels. His recordings are still discussed in many forums and there are many that are still often highly recommended.

  4. I agree a) the interview is easy to read for any German speaker, and b) Karajan wasn’t even remotely the tyrant he’s so often made out to be. I had the good fortune to interview him for an hour in his Salzburg office in August, 1976. He was charming, witty, personable and he gave me an hour, although his secretary had said “Fifteen minutes and no more!” The performances I heard him conduct between 1972 and 1986 (Strauss, Stravinsky, Bizet, Verdi, Beethoven, Schubert) in Amsterdam and Salzburg were definitive, both technically and musically.

  5. RIP

  6. I had a real privilege and a pleasure to work with Ewald Markl as my Executive Producer for many Deutsche Grammophon recordings over the years – as well as to count him as my dear friend.
    He was a real Gentleman, an “Old School” representative – in a best sense of this word!
    He had a rare combination of an exceptional intelligence, a deep knowledge of Music and recordings, a wonderful sense of humor, great sensitivity and – last but not least! – he was a really kind person! I am sure most of my colleagues, like Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer, Hagen Quartet and many others would agree! He will be very much missed…
    All my condolences and sympathy to his wonderful wife, Heidi, and their charming daughter.
    RIP dear Ewald!

    • Well, as the idea of this post was to inform about Ewald Markl and not about Herbert von Karajan, I thought it might be perhaps helpful to add a bit to what Mr. Maisky already said about him.

      Ewald Markl was born in Vienna in 1938. A well respected record man with a lucid mind and great sense of humour.

      From 1981 he was Product Manager Klassik at PolyGram Austria, responsible for the labels Amadeo, DG and Philips.

      From 1989 Markl was made head of DG’s Vienna office working closely with icons such as Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, Wiener Philharmoniker.

      As an Executive Producer he worked with artists such as Martha Argerich, Carlo Maria Giulini, Hagen Quartet, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, Maria João Pires, André Previn, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Christian Thielemann, and many more.

      In addition he he worked for ORF and Karajan Centrum. Mr. Markl will be missed!

  7. I need to clarify something–I inadervetently muddied the waters–I was referring to a German TV story on Justin Bieber–if I dare mention him in the same breath as Hebert von Karajan–when I spoke of the diffculties in following the Passive voice” auf Deutsche. Secondly, my written German is NOT as good as my aural. I rarely read German these days. It has been many years since the Albany NY area has had a German language newspaper and our Library long ago ceased to carry Der Spiegel und Stern. I often have to reread my 3 German Facebook friends’ postings to make sense of them if most seem to be related to Zynga or Farmville or some other FB game I’ve never gotten into & don’t understand in English! I don’t get down to NY City as frequently as I used to to pick up German language newspapers etc. Like anything else, if one doesn’t use it…. It’s why I remember so little of my one year of high school Spanish. (Brother James to me, “You need an elective to fill out your schedule, You’re taking Spanish!” Me, “Yes, Brother!” Only acceptable reply in that dinosauric era!)

    As to von Karajan’s tempestuousness, I only worked w/him once ca 1968 in a concert performance of Faust auf Deutsche in Berlin. He seemed to me to be a “twin” almost of Professor Arthur Laabs, my long time choral conductor & theory teacher. Some people found him difficult to work with. I did NOT. I grew up in a German household, active in the area German American Club, sang w/its chorus from age 14 till its demise re 30 years ago when our then Director left for an extremely abrupt return to his native Chicago and no one could be found to do the job of conducting an aging, ragtag group of singers for a pittance. A person’s “temperament” can be like beauty–in the eye of the behaloder.HVK WAS a consummate musician and I appreciated that if others did not.

    • Sorry I still don’t quite understand. What does “a concert performance auf Deutsche” mean? On Deutsche Grammophon? Or a live performance in German? Of *what* Faust? Gounod?

      • Sorry–in attempting to0 clairfy my remarks I seem to have totally confused everyone. One of my 3 German Facebook friends sent me a DVD of a German TV show–equivalent I’d say of our Entertainment Tonight, e.g. about Justin Bieber. It took me 6-8 times thru to get the gist of it both because my aural comprehension of German isn’t what I thought it was and much of the narration was in “passive voice” and my ear is not attuned to that. My German, as much meine mutterspraeche als English (“native tnongue”)–seems “rustier than I thought. I took 8 semesters of German in college, a millennium ago, expecting to “ace” it all but realized the difference between “real” German, Hoch Deutsche vs. the dialect & collquial German I grew up with.

        If you have trouble following my train o0f thought, folks, trust me, sometimes *I* have trouble following my train of thought! It’s why when we visited mom in the nursing home some years back, my sister was “whiplashed” by mom’s tangenial, circuitous stories, Tim & I followed her completely. As he said, “It’s like listening to YOU, PK!”

        • I think I can follow you. So what was the Faust performance you sang in under Karajan?

          • Oh God–this was eons ago. Berlin State Opera needed singers who knew German, could learn the choruses and for several of us, a couple dozen solo lines quickly. Es war auf Deutsche–ugh! Ungesaenglich!!! (Unsingable!) Only soloist I remember was Waldemar Kment as Faust. We had barely 2 weeks to put everything together. My agent knew I spoike/sang fluent German. Knew the music–had understudied part at Lake George Opera, now Opera Saratoga (upstate NY). Karjan was, maybe not “tyrant” but typical German/old world conductor. All I really remember is being escorted to/from our hotel under armed guard. Warum–weiss Ich night! (I don’t know how to create an esset in ASCII. The code someone gave me years ago creates something very different)

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