Menuhin and Karajan

Menuhin and Karajan

This is an fascinating DVD, if one thinks about these two musical personalities: Karajan, born in Salzburg, Austria to a family that had a “title”, the “von” in his name which clearly goes with an aristocratic family. Menuhin was born in New York City to parents who were intensely Zionist. The boy’s mother wanted to assure that everyone would know that he is Jewish, so she named her son “Yehudi”, which is Hebrew for “Jew”.

From a lot of recorded interviews and other sources, I got the sense that Menuhin was a person with a lot of personal charm. He explored diversity, connected with Asian music makers, was eager to learn and to teach, explored Eastern religions, and more. While I may well be biased, I have always found Karajan to be an amazing musician, yet personally aloof, taken with his own importance, and self-absorbed. In this DVD, you have these two personalities talking together and making music together.

On this DVD Herbert von Karajan conducts the Vienna Symphony with Yehudi Menuhin and the Berlin Philharmonic in works by Mozart and Dvorak. The performances include Antonin Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor”, and Mozart’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 5”. This footage is Menuhin and Karajan’s only recorded performance together. Also included is rehearsal footage of Karajan.

I did not like the Mozart violin concerto performance; I found it to be stiff, lacking in charm and in the lightness that Mozart intended. It came across as overly “Symphonic”. Still, this is a historic recording for the reasons mentioned above.

Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto was recorded in January 1966 at the Rosenhügel hall in Vienna with the Wiener Symphoniker and soloist Yehudi Menuhin; the film is introduced by an English-language interview that is nearly as long as the concerto. Menuhin is seen as he flatters Karajan, who never takes the bait but always brings the conversation back to practical music matters, and speaks excellent English with a bit of an accent. The concert is elaborately staged on a set oozing with chandeliers and distracting elegance…

Sections of this DVD are as follows:
In Rehearsal and Performance

• Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

• Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”
(Rehearsal and Performance)

It is not clear to me why the Mozart seems to be played in a key that is *different* from the one prescribed by the composer.

Here is a video of the Concerto for violin and orchestra No.5 in A major K219

Tags: Karajan, Menuhin, Mozart, Dvorak

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