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Herbert von Karajan dominated European orchestral life for over 30 years. On his centenary, is his reputation ebbing? Plus, Radio 3 are bad losers

By Martin Kettle   March 2008

Mighty Karajan

One hundred years after his birth and nearly 20 since his death, Herbert von Karajan’s (pictured, below right) reputation is, inevitably, in something of an eclipse. How could it have been otherwise, given the almost suffocating eminence that surrounded the Austrian conductor in his later years? In the healthier and more diverse musical climate of 2008, it is all but impossible to recreate the sense of authority that Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra exuded for so long. Yet the Karajan centenary—which falls on 5th April—is not just an opportunity to reflect on how much has changed for the…

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