Austrian conductor. A conductor of major symphony orchestras and operas, who said he sought ‘Toscanini's precision with Furtwängler's fantasy’, he managed to survive his association with the Nazis.
Born in Salzburg, Karajan, a child prodigy pianist, studied at the Salzburg Mozarteum while at school; later he studied conducting with Franz Schalk (1863–1931) at the Vienna Academy. His first appointment was at the Ulm Städtisches Theater; in 1934 he became general music director at Aachen, where he joined the Nazi Party. A highly acclaimed performance of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde at the Berlin State Opera in 1937 made his name as an opera conductor.
At the end of World War II his Nazi affiliations blocked his career until 1947, when the Vienna Symphony Orchestra appointed him conductor and two years later made him concert director for life. 1947 was also the year of Karajan's London debut with the Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he made its first European tour in 1952. His US debut was in 1955, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; the same year he became its principal conductor in succession to Furtwängler, remaining in the post until his death. Karajan was artistic director of the Salzburg Festival (1956–60; 1964) and founded the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1967. His association with the Vienna State Opera (1957–64) ended in his resignation after conflict. However, he rejoined in 1977.