The invaluable historic-recordings site Pristine Audio recently posted several little-known recordings of Herbert von Karajan, documenting his only concerts with American orchestras on American soil: two programs with the New York Philharmonic in 1958 and one with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1959. (In 1967 he twice conducted the Cleveland Orchestra, in Lucerne and Salzburg.) The L. A. appearance, which took place at the Hollywood Bowl, is notable, or not, as one of the very few occasions on which Karajan exercised his powers on American music: he led Ives's The Unanswered Question and began the show with "The Star-Spangled Banner." As far as I can tell from the Karajan online databank, the conductor's only other dabblings in Americana took place in Berlin, in 1979, when he tried out Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, with Alexis Weissenberg at the piano (not a success, says Richard Osborne, Karajan's biographer); and in Ulm, in 1930, when, at a New Year's Eve concert, he presented W. C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," in the Fletcher Henderson arrangement, and Vincent Youmans's "Hallelujah!" (Osborne reports that the conductor participated in a session of "jazz for three pianos"). Karajan evidently enjoyed listening to Gershwin and jazz in his spare time; he once told the Vienna Philharmonic that he was on his way to see Louis Armstrong, who, unlike the ensemble in front of him, never sped up or slowed down by mistake. In any case, the Ives is interesting, if not cherishable; it's a brisk performance, lacking in atmosphere, but it has a certain bite. Of greater interest is the Beethoven Ninth with the New York Philharmonic: it has the clear textures and athletic drive characteristic of Karajan's Beethoven from this period. The soloists are very fine: Leontyne Price, Léopold Simoneau, Norman Scott, and the late Maureen Forrester. You can listen to the entire first movement for free.