Erich Lessing: KARAJAN / Exhibition at the Leopold Museum, Vienna

Leopold Museum, Vienna

Erich Lessing: KARAJAN
An exhibition in celebration of the 100th birthday of Herbert von Karajan
Exhibition > 7 September 2008

The exhibition presents a major photo reportage by Erich Lessing on Herbert von Karajan (1908–1989). During the summer of 1957, Lessing was commissioned by the American magazine “Esquire” to document one of the conductor’s extremely intensive workweeks.

Herbert von Karajan conducting,
© Erich Lessing

Approximately 70 fine art prints in black and white, produced under the personal supervision of Erich Lessing, show travel, rehearsals and performances as well as offering glimpses of the conductor behind the scenes and in moments of relaxation.

The show recounts an encounter between two “titans” of the Austrian cultural world. The camera eye of Erich Lessing, who in Austrian photography has long enjoyed the status of a chronicler, succeeds in capturing the charisma of the legendary conducting star Herbert von Karajan from a unique perspective.

The images captured by the then 34-year-old photographer were created at four locations: at recording sessions and concerts in Berlin, Lucerne, Vienna and in Salzburg, where, in addition to conducting, Herbert von Karajan also served as the director of the operas “Fidelio” and “Falstaff”.

Rehearsal of Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto no. 3 in C minor, op. 37. Glenn Gould with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Herbert von Karajan.
Concert Hall of the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, 1957.
© Erich Lessing

Karajan did not only conduct, he also directed Beethoven‘s „Fidelio“.
Felsenreitschule, Salzburg, 1957.
© Erich Lessing

Acoustic trials in the Kunsthaus, Lucerne, 1957.
© Erich Lessing


Born in Vienna July 13, 1923, the son of a dentist and a concert pianist. In 1939, before finishing highschool, Hitler´s occupation of Austria forced him to emigrate to Israel (then still the British Mandate Palestine). His mother remained in Vienna and died in Ausschwitz. In Israel, Erich Lessing worked in several Kibbuzim, raising carp among other agricultural jobs. He returned to photography, a childhood-hobby, working as a Kindergarden photographer and later as photographer with the British Army.

In 1947 he returned to Austria, worked as a photographer for the Associated Press and, in 1951, joined Magnum Photos, the world-famous photographer’s cooperative. Working chiefly for LIFE, Paris Match, Picture Post, EPOCA and Quick Magazine, he documented political events in post-war Europe, particularly in the former Communist countries. He covered the Hungarian Revolution, several summit meetings and President Charles de Gaulle´s visit to Algeria.

After 1960 he turned towards history, attempting to bring historical personalities and epochs alive in what he called photographic „evocations“. These evocations included the lives and times of great musicians, poets, physicists and astronomers, the latter published in bookform as „Discoverers of the Universe“.

In 1992 he was presented with Vienna´s silver medal for outstanding services to the city; he received the Imre Nagy-medal, bestowed by the President of the Hungarian republic for his work during the Hungarian revolution 1956. He was awarded the Golden Medal from the governor of Styria and received the “Grosser Österreichischer Staatspreis” in 1997.

The book

On the occasion of the exhibition, a book has been published with an essay by the composer and culture manager Rainer Bischof. It is available especially for the exhibition in a special hand-signed limited edition.

Herbert von Karajan
Photographed by Erich Lessing, Text by Rainer Bischof.
30 x 30cm, hardcover, 228 pages.
Signed special edition for the Leopold Museum, Vienna.
(c) 2008 Verlag der Metamorphosen, Vienna.

    Text © Museum Ludwig
    Photographs © Erich Lessing


    Disclaimer & Copyright


    ~ by Stampfli & Turci on August 21, 2008.

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