C1631. KARL BÖHM Cond. ORTF S. O.: Symphony #29 in A, K.201 (Mozart); Symphony #2 in D (Brahms). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-637, Live Performance, 25 May, 1973. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"[Böhm had a] natural, essential music-making….the magical ease and naturalness of transition from one tempo to another, the human warmth, the humor, restrained pathos, the aristocratic and refined taste in final ritardandos and the incredible energy of the man."
- Walter Legge, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Feb., 1995
“Karl Böhm was one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century in the German tradition. He studied music as a child and continued to work and study in music while serving in the Austrian Army during World War I - and while completing a doctorate in law. He never had conducting lessons, but made close studies of the work of both Bruno Walter and Karl Muck.
In 1921 he was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and then he became Generalmusikdirektor in both Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931-1933). He gained a reputation for his fine performances of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, as well as his championing of modern German music, including operas by Krenek and Berg. Böhm débuted in Vienna in 1933, leading Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. In 1934 he became director of the Dresden State Opera, Richard Strauss's favorite theater. There, Böhm conducted premieres of Strauss's DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1935) and DAFNE (1938). He remained at the helm in Dresden through 1943, at which point he became director of the Vienna State Opera (1943-1945). Richard Strauss was not in official favor, and Joseph Goebbels banned any recognition of the great composer's 80th birthday in 1944. However, Böhm participated in a de facto observance, as a large number of Strauss' orchestral and operatic works ‘just happened’ to be played about the time of the birthday.
After the war, Böhm was forbidden to perform until he underwent ‘de-Nazification’, a procedure whereby prominent Austro-Germans were investigated for complicity in Nazi crimes. He was eventually cleared of any suspicion, and was permitted to resume work in 1947.
Böhm oversaw the German repertory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1950-1953), and again served as director of the Vienna State Opera (1954-1956). He débuted in the USA at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart's DON GIOVANNI in 1957, and took prominent German orchestras and opera companies on tour. The Vienna Philharmonic bestowed on him the title ‘Ehrendirigent’, and he was proclaimed Generalmusikdirector of Austria. He left a legacy of many great recordings, including a complete Wagner RING cycle considered by many critics to be the best. While his Wagner and Strauss were sumptuously Romantic, his Mozart was scrupulously Classical in approach.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Following an apprenticeship in his native Austria, Karl Böhm was appointed, at the recommendation of Karl Muck, to be assistant to Walter at the Munich State Opera in 1921. He went on to become music director in Darmstadt in 1927, in Hamburg in 1931 and, with Hitler's approval, in Dresden, as successor to Fritz Busch in 1934. During his decade-long tenure he maintained Dresden's reputation for imaginative repertory, with performances of new works that included the premieres of DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU, 1935, and DAPHNE, 1938, an opera dedicated by Strauss to the conductor. From 1943 to the end of the war, he was director of the Vienna State Opera.
Privately no less than publicly, Böhm was a strong supporter of Hitler and National Socialism from 1933 on and gave the Nazi salute at the beginning of a concert. He subsequently not only was unrepentant but defiant, even, claiming that while other conductors took the easy course and fled, he stayed behind to suffer and be bombed with other Germans. After a two-year ban by occupation authorities, Böhm became conductor of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic.”
- Frederic Spotts, Great Conductors of the Third Reich