Herbert Von Karajan - Beauty as I see it

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Arts, Biography Documentary published by ZDF in 2008 - German narration

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Image: Herbert-Von-Karajan-Beauty-as-I-see-it-Cover.jpg

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A definitive documentary about legendary conductor Herbert Von Karajan to mark 100 years since his birth. First release in any format! Not just a biographical film, Karajan uncovers the true, personal essence of the unique artist behind the public figure, a portrait of a man who was full of contradictions and remained a mystery until his death. On the occasion of the 100th birthday of Herbert von Karajan, Academy Award nominee Robert Dornhelm has mined the archives of Unitel, for more than two decades the great conductor's production home, for previously unreleased material including rehearsal footage, and interviews with members of the Karajan family, plus such music world luminaries and colleagues as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, René Kollo, Christa Ludwig, Brigitte Fassbaender, Gundula Janowitz,Sir Simon Rattle, Mariss Jansons, Joachim Kaiser and Helmut Schmidt. The greater understanding of this legendary artist to be experienced by seeing this film will certainly transfer to a greater appreciation of his recordings, and is a must not only for Karajan lovers, but for anyone who loves symphonic music.

Reviews :

- This documentary is a masterpiece - a classic - the gold standard by which all film biographies of musicians will be measured in future. It's editorially balanced, showing Karajan's faults as well as his strengths.

It's also wonderfully crafted, effortlessly blending modern interviews and archive material - black and white and colour. The editing is so subtle you hardly notice it at first viewing. You just concentrate on the content which is riveting. But repeated viewing shows master-craftsmen at work. All the clips are cut back to sound bites so the film moves at a cracking pace, but never too fast. Underneath the clips are long lines of music - scrupulously chosen. These punctuate the comments and are brought up at strategic moments for a few seconds to illustrate the words, often with dramatic effect.

This film explains conducting better than any I've seen. It should intrigue musicians. It's also an object lesson in how to make a documentary with class and style - a must-see for anyone interested in the art of film-making.

Having read these rave comments you may ask if I'm a friend of the director, or linked to Deutsche Grammophon? No! But I am a professional broadcaster and appreciate a good documentary when I see it. This is a real life-enhancer. I watched it four times in three days and am still getting a lot out of it. The film is densely packed with information and wonderful images. Above all it's intelligent. You'll want to become a conductor - or film-maker - after watching this documentary. -

- This documentary sums Karajan's artistic life, and parts of his personal life, very fittingly. Utilising archival footage supplemented by a few contemporary shots for use as backdrop to certain musical segments, it presents the viewer with a "medley" of verbal and musical thoughts on Herbert von Karajan.

The documentary is split into (untitled) chapters presented in chronological order, but with various statements on the conductor inserted at key moments without necessarily being contemporaneous to the footage. Furthermore, and that is a point I particularly enjoyed, prominence is given to the words of Karajan himself, drawn from various interviews, and also of his daughters and close associates, giving a more intimate impression than the various (albeit interesting) "outsider" comments add.

Of those "outside comments", perhaps the most interesting come from members of Karajan's orchestras, while there's also a few words by the latter of his successors in the Berlin Philharmonic podium, Sir Simon Rattle. The musical (often audio-visual) footage is well-chosen, and drawn from a surprising variety of sources, including the "Karajan Legacy for Home Video" catalogue, otherwise currently issued by Sony Classical.

So all in all, I consider this documentary film a great success: it presents Karajan as a person, a conductor and a public icon, managing to distinguish between the three, doing him no favours on the those things others have criticised him for (be they musical or political), and most importantly avoiding that oft-encountered lingering in specific points that so often mars opinions on Karajan, negative or otherwise.

Recommended for anyone looking to learn what Karajan was about, be they a fan, detractor, or merely curious. -

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x264 AVC
  • Video Bitrate: 1 417 KB/s
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Video Resolution: 720 x 400
  • Audio Codec: (Dolby AC3)
  • Audio Bitrate: 192 Kb/s 48000Hz
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Audio Languages: german and english
  • Run-Time: 1h 32mins
  • Framerate: 29.970 FPS
  • Number of Parts: 1
  • Part Size: 1.06 GiB
  • Ripped by DocFreak08
  • Subtitles: english

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