Brahms, Bruckner, Bart—k, Debussy. Schumann, etc

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Brahms,Bruckner,Debussy. Schumann,etc
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Sergiu Celibidache
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6; Symphony No. 7; Symphony No. 8; Symphony No. 9; Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: Soloists; Munich PO & Chorus/Sergiu Celibidache
CATALOGUE NO: CMS 5 67732 2 ADD/DDD Reissue
The weeks of steady listening required to absorb this massive set will remain in my memory as a thoroughly enjoyable time. I’ve, long admired the unfailingly beautiful, carefully honed, paradoxically rich but lean textures and sonorities Celibidache cultivates (which are well captured by the mostly excellent recorded sound heard here). Exposed to his work so intensively and in such quantity, I quickly capitulated to a style in which patient, sustained utterance came to seem immediate, fervent and idealistic. Once attuned to this world, I found touches that open Celibidache to the charge of being a finicky, defiant iconoclast (exaggeratedly tapered phrase endings or extreme dynamic contrasts, for example) to seem either insightful or else incidental to underlying truths. More importantly, Celibidache’s apparently ponderous tempi can come to possess compelling inner life and flow; even when they seem initially leaden (as at die beginning of Bruckner’s Te Deum or in the scherzo of Beethoven’s Ninth) the willing ear can find momentum and melody. There are some notable passages of felicitous characterisation, such as the scherzo of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the second movement of Bart6k’s Concerto for Orchestra, and the trio from the minuet of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 (positively Dvorákian in its nostalgic yearning). Just as often, I found things to nurture my understanding of the music itself: Celibidache memorably elucidates those dense thickets of sometimes bewildering harmonies in the first movement of Bruckner’s Ninth, and finds an uncommon depth of interest and import in the second movement of Schubert’s Great C major Symphony. And although Celibidache’s outlook by the later stages of his career was anything but overtly Dionysian, the cumulative force he summons in climactic passages (particularly in Bruckner) can be quite overwhelming.


In short, I heartily recommend attentive and willing immersion in this set for those wishing to gain an intuitive grasp of Celibidache’s distinctive style. I am grateful to have done so, but am bound to report that these performances do not reward casual listening: one must meet the conductor halfway. I feel sure that encouraging such a practice was part of Celibidache’s artistic mission.