excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (273 words)

excerpt from 'Southbank Centre Archive' (273 words)

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Southbank Centre Archive

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6th October 1988 RFH (?) with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karajan. It had been rumoured that this might be Herbert von Karajan's last concert in London, having just turned 80, so tickets were like gold dust. It began with a drama - the musicians' instruments held up in France where a strike at the French ports had delayed their departure. Thanks to the English police clearing the motorways, they finally arrived at 8.30. By now the atmosphere was electric! The maestro entered to tumultuous applause, walking to the edge of the platform on the arm of an assistant and supported by a chain of hands, held out in alternation by the first violins and violas. Finally, the destination reached, the leader moves forward to offer the baton. The whole process has taken no more than 15 seconds, but it has established the aura: this is charisma holding on with fierce tenacity into its ninth decade. The perfomance began with Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht and seemed almost valedictory. He seemed not so much to generate the music so much as to preside over it. Brahms' First Symphony was quite different. He moved a little more, but the impression of aloofness, even disengagement, is no less powerful. This was Brahms done with driving passion, almost as if the orchestra was making an offering to him, striving to sound as intent, as committed and as beautiful as possible. As he turned to the audience at the end, there was the faintest trace of pleasure. Then he left the platform for the last time. As it turned out, for the very last time in London and in England. A truly unforgettable experience.

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