The Garden of Celibidache

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Bruckner,Mozart
ALBUM TITLE: A film by Serge Ioan Celibidachi
PERFORMER: Munich Philharmonic/Sergiu Celibidache
CATALOGUE NO: DVDC 200178 (distr. Pinnacle)


This DVD, made by Celibidache’s son at the end of the conductor’s life, cuts between interview, rehearsal, performance, classes and – with what relevance it’s often hard to tell – his garden, where he feeds his dogs, waters the plants and entertains a group of Tibetan monks.

His classes are horrifying, as he bullies and cajoles the conducting students, but also fascinating, when he makes them question what they are trying to achieve, and their methods. ‘That was better. Why?’ is a recurring comment, and it’s startling how many don’t know. He himself is a mass of contradictions: ‘What you call “interpretation” is ignorance,’ he says to his interviewer: but aren’t his weighty performances almost over-interpreted? No, he would say: slowness allows richness of sound, which makes us more at one with the music.

His rehearsals with the Munich Philharmonic show him creating that richness through balance and blend of instrumental colours, and smiling beatifically at especially beautiful or imaginative playing. More of this exposure of the process of making music and fewer bleeding chunks of actual performance would have made a tighter film.


Speech is mostly in French and German, but the subtitles are sometimes badly translated, and there’s neither a comprehensive menu, nor a booklet. Martin Cotton