29 JULY 1989, Page 26

Syllabus of errors

Sir: In his somewhat acrimonious obituary of Herbert von Karajan (Arts, 22 July) Rodney Milnes cites an editing error in the Deutsche Grammophon recording of Mozart's The Magic Flute as final proof of Karajan's burgeoning megalomania. If this is to be a criterion by which musicians are to be judged few will escape whipping. In an age increasingly given over to haste and technological complexity, a gramophone recording has as much chance of appearing error free as a book has of appearing without misprints.

In the case of the Magic Flute error, Karajan got his own sweet revenge. When he played through the finished set the record company had sent him, he rang the producer to ask if he had noticed the 84 editing errors in the recording. After a day's fevered checking of the records 'Bloody cowboy builders!' against the score, the producer rang back to say he could find only one: a dreadful one, to be sure, but only one. 'Perhaps so', said Karajan tut it's an error that makes 80 players, 3 singers, and a conductor look rather careless. So, 84!'

Richard Osborne

The Old Rectory, Bradfield, Berkshire