Karajan 'daughters' try to settle old score
ONE of two German sisters who allege they are the illegitimate children of the controversial Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Herbert von Karajan has gone to court in Austria in a bid to be recognized as the maestro’s offspring.
Karajan, who died in 1989, was an artiste of international stature whose reputation suffered due to his enthusiastic embrace of Nazism.
He was a party member in two countries, his nativeAustria and his adopted Germany, and his detractors say he used his links with senior party members to further his career.
At the time of his death the Karajan estate was estimated to be worth £150m. During his lifetime he sold 115 million records worldwide.
Hedwig Notthoff, 64, says the young Austrian conductor, who moved with ease through European society, was a cad who seduced her mother and her aunt in the 1930s. The affairs, begun during the early years of Karajan’s career when he was working as Kapellmeister inUlm, allegedly resulted in at least two offspring.
"Aunt Milly was working as an operetta singer and dancer when she met Karajan," she said. "She then introduced him to my mother, who was living nearby inEssen, and later an affair developed between them that lasted until he became famous, resulted in us kids. Then he left us for good."
Hedwig began her search four years ago, beginning with relevant biographies of Karajan and sifting through remaining papers of her family. Hedwig claims the bizarre love triangle was shattered after their aunt, Milly Klann, was killed during an air raid by the RAF. Karajan’s secret double life with his own mother then became increasingly difficult as his fame increased.
She claims the moves to abandon her mother and aunt began earlier, after he married the opera singer Elmy Holgerloef in 1938, the first of his three wives. The family claims they were gradually abandoned on account of their lowly social status.
The dashing conductor, whose father was a renowned surgeon, was considered a cultivated gentleman from high society while his alleged mistress was a dirt-poor weaver who was forbidden from talking about their relationship.
Lawyers representing the Karajan heirs declined to comment on the claims which have already been dismissed as a fabrication by the Karajan Foundation. At the Herbert von Karajan Centre inVienna, archivist Ina Gayed is sceptical.
"Karajan wrote many letters," she said. "If the two sisters were actually daughters of von Karajan I am certain there would be surviving letters to them to prove it."