Sibelius, Dvor‡k, Strauss, Shostakovich, etc

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,etc,Shostakovich,Sibelius,Strauss
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Celibidache Ð The Stockholm Recordings
WORKS: Music
PERFORMER: Jacqueline du Pré (cello); Swedish RSO/Sergiu Celibidache
CATALOGUE NO: 469 069-2 ADD stereo/mono
Like peas, music cannot be canned. It loses its flavour, scent, its life.’ So, famously, did Celibidache dismiss the phonographic art. And yet, the fact that the eccentrically meticulous conductor liked to work for radio orchestras has led to his inadvertent bequeathing of a legacy. This Swedish-based set is extraordinary for its Sibelius Second and Fifth Symphonies – large, luminous stately performances which loom out of the cavernous acoustic like epics of old.

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Unlike the smoothly flowing performances of, say, Colin Davis, Celibidache’s reading of No. 2 moves in fits and starts, drifts into remoteness, but ultimately overwhelms with glowing legato. While Osmo Vänskä’s fresh account of the Fifth is a favourite, Celibidache’s knocks one out with the work’s grandeur. In the first movement, he achieves a gigantic climax. His Allegro molto is steadier than most, but, yet again, the build-up in tension is mesmerising. The grinding dissonances of the ending slow up until time seems to stand still. The orchestra was said to have marvelled at the way he turned the famous theme into an ‘endless stream of song’, and indeed it soars on wings as if it could glide on forever. Old-fashioned it may be, but also revelatory.

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Other treasures are a dreamlike Till Eulenspiegel, a blistering Don Juan and a Franck Symphony, which he ennobles with a performance of vast range. This set also contains Jacqueline du Pré’s no-holds-barred Dvorák Cello Concerto (also available on Teldec) in which conductor and soloist do ravishing justice to the work. The distortions are forgivable, coming as they do from raw emotion, but the noises off in the hall are less easy to ignore.