Nearly 20 years after his death, the recordings of Herbert von Karajan remain some of the most popular items among lovers of classical music. ( dpa )
This year, the centenary of the conductor's birth, demand has been particularly strong, with the music industry releasing special collections and digitally remastered CDs of his best-known performances.
During a career spanning nearly half-a-century, von Karajan sold millions of discs from 900 different works, ranging from Beethoven symphonies to Richard Strauss waltzes.
Arguably the most recorded conductor in history, the Austrian-born maestro is credited with creating the clean and distinctive sound that made the Berlin Philharmonic one of the world's leading orchestras.
Keenly aware of the power of the electronic media, von Karajan also formed his own company to oversee television and digital video disc recordings of his concerts.
Born April 5, 1908 in Salzburg, von Karajan made his international breakthrough in Germany at the time when the Nazis came to power. A protege of Hitler's air force commander Hermann Goering, he joined the Nazi party twice - in Germany and Austria.
Von Karajan claimed this was out of opportunism rather than conviction, but his activities led to him being banned from conducting in post-war Germany for two years after the end of the war.
Sometimes portrayed as a cold, self-obsessed workaholic, he was able to win over audiences again in the 1950s and began filling concert halls across Europe.
While many considered him a genius and the "godfather" of classical music," some of those who worked with him were less generous, calling him a tyrant and dictator.
But to his third wife, French model Eliette Mouret, whom he married in 1958, he was "the sweetest man alive."
"He was the kindest, most generous man in private," she wrote in her autobiography My Life At His Side, which was released to coincide with this year's centenary celebrations.
"Every time he did something unselfish and generous, he would insist that it be withheld from the public. He was so modest," said Eliette, with whom he had two daughters.
At the peak of his fame, von Karajan cultivated an image as a member of the jet-set, piloting his private plane, sailing his yacht and driving fast cars.
In addition to his work in Berlin, he was also chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and helped turn the Salzburg Festival into one of the world's leading classical music events.
Von Karajan was in charge of the Berlin Philharmonic for 30 years until his spectacular resignation in 1989. Before that he had been locked in a clinch with members of the orchestra opposed to his appointment of a young female clarinetist.
He returned to his native Austria where he died of a heart attack on July 16, 1989 at his family home outside Salzburg.
A series of international concerts and opera performances across seven countries in three continents is being being held as part of the centenary celebrations.
Soloists and conductors taking part include violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, Vienna State Opera music director Seiji Ozawa and the Berlin Philharmonic's Sir Simon Rattle.
There is also a joint German and Austrian television documentary which will feature interviews with von Karajan's wife as well as his daughters, Isabel and Arabel.