22 September 2023

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan conducting Sibelius and Grieg in Dolby Atmos

Previously, we introduced Deutsche Grammophon’s innovative “Dolby Atmos” series, a cutting-edge audio technology that offers an immersive three-dimensional listening experience, akin to cinema’s Dolby Surround. The latest installment in this series features Karajan’s renditions of notable works by Grieg and Sibelius.

While Karajan shared a somewhat relaxed association with Grieg, his dedication to Sibelius‘s oeuvre was profound — a sentiment Sibelius himself recognized during the 1950s upon hearing Karajan’s Philharmonia recordings.

When Karajan went to Helsinki in 1965 to perform a concert and to receive the Finnish medal, another great interpreter of Sibelius’ works, Sir Thomas Beecham was already dead. It was up to Karajan to “give a speech in which he announced that he wanted to bring recognition to Sibelius’ music in Europe as well. (Peter Uehling)” and indeed, he was a tireless apologist from the 1950s to the 1980s (read also about Glenn Gould’s praise of Karajan’s Sibelius). The three favourite Sibelius pieces on this disc (Finlandia, the Swan of Tuonela, Valse triste) were of course door openers for the audience’s attention.

Read more about the Grieg/Sibelius album remastered in dolby atmos here.

Here’s a story about Karajan and “Finlandia”. In 2020, the Swiss flutist and conductor Peter-Lukas Graf reported his encounter with Karajan:

“Herbert von Karajan came to the Lucerne Festival with the Berlin Philharmonic. He had forbidden anyone’s attendance in his rehearsals but I managed to talk to him and he gave his permission (rather unwillingly) for me to sit “20th row minimum!” From that distance I witnessed with honest admiration how he rehearsed a Sibelius symphony calmly and efficiently, with the tiniest gestures. After a while he turned to the empty auditorium, saw me, shouted “Finlandia!” and conducted the entire piece theatrically in the grand manner and with all the effort it took. I think the show was meant for me and today, I can say Karajan once conducted only for me!”

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