Karajan Family

The Karajan family originally came from Macedonia and bore the name Karajannis (Karajoannes).

Kara means black in Turkish.

Great-Great Grandfather (Paternal)

Georg Johann Karajoannes
Herbert von Karajan's Great-Great Grandfather was born in Kosani (Kozane) in the Karstic Mountains in Macedonia. In 1767 he left his birthplace travelling first to Vienna and then moving on to Chemnitz in Saxony. He and his brother, Theodor Johann, founded cotton weaving mills and factories there, thus helping to establish Saxony's textile industry.

For their services in the furtherance of trade and industry, Frederick Augustus III, Elector of Saxony raised them both to the nobility on 1 June 1792. As knights of the Holy Roman Empire, the Karajannis family henceforth called themselves "Karajan".

Later, Georg Johann left the Chemnitz factories to his brother and returned to Vienna where he became a textile wholesaler. He died on 2nd June 1813.

Great Grandfather (Paternal)

Theodor Georg Ritter von Karajan
Karajan's Great-Grandfather was born on 22nd January 1810 in Vienna and entered the Austrian Civil Service in 1832. He was an archivist in the Ministry of Finance, where its director, the poet and playwright Franz Grillparzer, helped Theodor get a position in the Imperial Court Library in 1841. He was elected to Vienna's Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1848 becoming its President in 1866. Also, from 1850 he was a Professor of Old German Philology and Historical Research at the University of Vienna.

He won recognition for his historical and linguistic research, and also as the author and publisher of academic treatises. On 11th July 1869 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Austrian Order of Leopold and was raised to the Austrian knighthood. He died on 28th April 1873.

Grandfather (Paternal)

Ludwig Anton von Karajan
Herbert von Karajan's Grandfather was born in 1835 and was a doctor of medicine working as a government councillor and health advisor for Lower Austria. Although he had no practical skills it was said that he had a deep love and understanding of music.

As Ludwig died in 1906, Herbert von Karajan never knew him.

In 1880 he had built the "Villa Karajan" at the western end of Lake Grundlsee. The house was left to members of the family after his death and consequently Herbert von Karajan spent many childhood summers there.

"Villa Karajan", Mosern 24, Grundlsee

Postcard depicting Aussee from "Villa Karajan" (circa 1907)

Note: The Lobl and Haeusserman biographies incorrectly state that Ludwig's brother, Maximilian, was Karajan's Grandfather.(See below)

Great Uncle (Paternal)

Maximilian von Karajan
Herbert von Karajan's Great Uncle lived in Graz, founding the Graz Singverein in the mid 1860s. In 1909 he wrote a history of the first 40 years of this singing association, "Der Singverein in Graz in den ersten vierzig Jahren seines Bestehens(1866/67 bis 1905/06)"

I believe that the Mourning Card, shown below, relates to his unmarried daughter, Bertha, who was Herbert von Karajan's first cousin once removed.

Bertha von Karajan
Born in Graz 23rd June 1868
Died in Graz 3rd January 1919

Grandmother (Paternal)

Henriette von Karajan (née von Raindl)
Herbert von Karajan's Grandmother was born in Vienna and died when he was 4 years old.

As well as Karajan's Father, Ernst, and his Uncle, Emanuel ("Max"), Henrietta and Ludwig Anton also had two daughters. As a child the young Herbert von Karajan used to play the piano with his two aunts one of whom was called Helene.

Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather (Maternal)

Matija Lavtižar
As a result of the work of a Slovenian scholar Dr Branka Lapajne more is known about Karajan's family on his mother's side establishing that Karajan’s mother Marta Kosmač [German version Martha Kosmatsch] was Slovenian, not Serbian as previously assumed. Records have now been traced back to the 17th century and Dr Lapajne's researches have established a shared blood line on Karajan’s mother’s side with the composer Hugo Wolf, who was Slovenian on both sides of his family and who is also ultimately related to the Lavtižar family.
Apparently Carlos Kleiber, whose wife was a Slovenian-born dancer, sent Karajan a 75th birthday greeting in Slovenian - which suggests that Karajan must have talked about his Slovenian roots to Kleiber - and may, indeed, have known some of the language.

Note: With grateful thanks to Karajan's biographer, Richard Osborne, who provided the above information.

Grandfather (Maternal)

Mihael Kosmač [Michael Kosmatsch]
The family comes from the northwestern Slovenian village of Mojstrana. Herbert von Karajan's Grandfather, on his mother's side, was a minor public official in Graz. He died at the age of 46 when his daughter, Marta, (Karajan's mother) was only 3 years old.

Grandmother (Maternal)

Katharina Kosmac (née Axterer)
(circa 1848-1944)
Born in Knittelfeld, north-west of Graz, in about 1848, Herbert von Karajan's maternal Grandmother was 96 when she died there in 1944.

Uncle (Paternal)

Emanuel ("Max") von Karajan
(circa 1871-1947)
Ernst von Karajan's younger brother had trained as a civil engineer but was a senior house manager at the Vienna State Opera from before 1914. The young Herbert von Karajan managed to gain access to many performances through his uncle's connection with the opera house.

Max von Karajan retired during the 1930's and died in Vienna at the age of 76 in 1947.

Aunt (Paternal)

Helene Stankiewicz de Mogila (née von Karajan)
Ernst von Karajan's elder sister Helene was born on 20th June 1866 in Vienna. She married Rodolphe Stankiewicz de Mogila (1863-1930) on 14th April 1896 in Vienna.
Note: With grateful thanks to Aymeric de Monicault who provided the above information.


Ernst von Karajan
Ludwig and Henriette von Karajan's eldest son was born in Vienna in 1868.

Dr. Ernst von Karajan was Senior Registrar at St Johann's Hospital (now known as the Landeskrankenhaus) in Salzburg where he specialised in the treatment of goitres. He was later director of the State Health Authorities as well as a State Health Consultant.

He played the piano and as a clarinettist, he was a member of the Salzburg Chamber Music Society.


Martha von Karajan (née Marta Kosmač [Martha Kosmatsch])
Marta Kosmač, whose father was Slovenian, was born in Graz in 1881. She married Ernst von Karajan in September 1905 and was 13 years younger than him.


Wolfgang von Karajan
Born on 21st July 1906, Wolfgang ran a laboratory for technical physics in Salzburg. Later, he played in and directed the Wolfgang von Karajan Organ Ensemble which included his wife, Hedy. In the 1960's they toured all over the world performing Bach's "Art of Fugue" as a speciality.

He died in November 1987.

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