25 August 2023

Philip Jenkins

Karajan artists: Kathleen Battle – Karajan’s voice of spring

Karajan wanted her on his side for some of the most precious musical moments in his life – Kathleen Battle.

She performed under Karajan’s baton in Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” as part of the High Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. in St Peter in 1985. Although it was a superlative media event and it was extremely hot at this day in Rome, Karajan achieved intimate musical moments: “The most telling moment was a lyrical one: the ‘Agnus Dei’ between the Eucharistic prayer and the Communion, exquisitely sung by Kathleen Battle. (Richard Osborne)”

Karajan’s special idea for his first and only Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert in 1987 was the introduction of a vocalist. “At Clemens Krauss’ very first Strauss family concert in Salzburg in August in 1929, Adele Kern had sung a version of the waltz Voices of Spring. Karajan now repeated the idea, with Kathleen Battle, in a rhododendron-red dress, as his bewitching, note-perfect soloist. (Osborne)” When asked about the rumours about her being moody and complicated Karajan agreed laughing: “But, my God, what a voice!”

Battle also was Zerlina in Karajan’s last ever Mozart opera production of “Don Giovanni” in 1987/88.

Apart from these major events in both musical careers, Karajan also collaborated with Battle for some profound sacred masterworks like Brahms’ “German Requiem” and Bach’s Mass in B minor.

We’ve prepared playlists with Karajan and Kathleen Battle. Listen to them here.

Richard Osborne: “Karajan. A Life in Music” Chatto & Windus, London. 1998

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