Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Great Director - Herbert Von Karajan

As actors, we all have to work in close cooperation with directors. Just as for directors, working with certain actors can be a blessing whereas it's a curse to work with certain other actors, a director can also be either a blessing or a curse. I'm sure we all - actors and directors - have had the chance to meet both kinds.
Without too long a prologue, in this documentary Herbert Von Karajan, non arguably one of the greatest orchestra directors of all times, is rehearsing Schumann's 4th Symphony with the Wiener Symphoniker. It is the day before the recording, which means they have already been rehearsing for weeks, day after day, hours per day. Yet, as they begin, the number and frequency of the interruptions make you think this is the first day of rehearsals.
The precision, the philosophical beauty of his explanations and his eloquent passion can only inspire his musicians to participate in his search for perfection. He is literally spellbinding.
Karajan embodies - and this documentary shows that perfectly - the holy union of knowledge, mastery, skills, professionalism, patience, and leadership, all meeting in one man.
The documentary draws the potrait of a man who's firm and resolute in the quest for perfection; yet, he always maintains the necessary concentration, composure, and respect. He not only has skills, but class and style in the way he directs the orchestra.

If ever I direct one day, Karajan is the model I'll take from. Being the director of myself - as all actors should be - Karajan inspires me. Watching him, I can only acknowledge the fact that skills are not enough: personality, professionalism, and patience are paramount. Watching Karajan, I understand that persistence, constance, and discipline are the way to achieving perfection.


  1. I have several thoughts here all happening at once as it does when I see something that takes my breath away. What we witness here is not simply the process of perfecting a piece of music but also, as you're bringing to light, the creation of a perfect moment in the life of a character or the blending of the elements necessary to paint a master piece or the countless revisions great writing requires.

    It all seems deceivingly simple to the audience. It's easy to forget just how much work and passion go into creating something that appears to be spontaneous. But then, isn't that the beauty of what we do?

  2. It most definitely is, Tom.
    Karajan was instead often criticized over his search for perfection. His detractors kept saying that his interpretations were technically perfect, too perfect, and devoid of life.
    I believe every human being endowed with a minimal sensitivity in music will find that impossible to agree with.

    Thank you for letting me know your take.

  3. OMG! I would have been scared of this guy ;)
    Yes, he shows professionalism in this documentary but he's somewhat intimidating (hmmm I wonder if it has something to do with him being German, LOL!)
    Ok, seriously now, when you say that Karajan embodies "the holy union of knowledge, mastery, skills, professionalism, patience, and leadership" I can only think that these also apply to writers. The perfect combination for a writer to succeed in her/his craft.
    Thank you for sharing this video!

  4. Scared, no, intimidated, yes. All great personalities are intimidating. Their genius flows out in rivulets from all pores.
    Watching Karajan's rehearsal, I often wondered how the chief violinist must have felt: everytime something was wrong with the violins, Karajan would address the chief violinist, the one sitting to his left, never with even the least hint of disrispect though. I suppose the only thing to do in such a case is to bow, do what he says, and shut up in case of disagreement.

    Claudia, if you really want to see something scary, one day I'll post Toscanini's rehearsals with the New York philarmonic orchestra!

    Thank you for commenting, my friend.