Notes and Editorial Reviews
CELIBIDACHE IN REHEARSAL & PERFORMANCE
Sergiu Celibidache, cond; Stuttgart RSO
EUROARTS 2060368 (DVD: 101:00) Live: Stuttgart 1/1965;
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche.
Devotees of Sergiu Celibidache will have to get this DVD. So will those who are less familiar with, but also intrigued by, the legendary conductor who is insufficiently known to modern collectors because of his well-known aversion to making commercial recordings. One wonders how many listeners under 40 are aware that Celibidache, who died in 1996, was music director of the Berlin Philharmonic for seven years, preceding Wilhelm Furtwängler in that position.
This video release holds performances from 1965 (Strauss) and 1982 (Rimsky-Korsakov) that demonstrate the conductor’s supreme concentration and singularly re-creative spirit in concert, but the most cherishable aspect of the program is the 33 minutes of Celibidache rehearsing
A three-CD set in DG’s “The Celibidache Edition” (
24:2) included an entire disc of rehearsal excerpts—
Death and Transfiguration
Pines of Rome—
but those can’t be fully appreciated unless you’re fluent in German. Here, the conductor’s comments, instructions, and exhortations (and he does talk a
while working with the orchestra) are offered as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. More than anything, it’s clear that, while Celibidache knew exactly what he wanted, he viewed symphonic music-making as a collaborative undertaking. He’s not aloof, and his rapport with the Stuttgart musicians is palpable. Only occasionally does he scold: “Gentlemen, why are you playing like that? Three-quarters of us are playing a proper pianissimo and the others don’t notice that they’re obtruding. Please pay attention!” His command of the musical text is extraordinary. Plenty of conductors perform concerts without a score, but not many
without one. “There’s no dot on the last note. If there is, it’s a misprint,” the conductor states confidently.
Celibidache provides plenty of specific technical feedback to his players—on bowing, balances, intonation, etc.—but mostly he labors to help them understand the music as he does. At the end of
, the conductor advises “Don’t get sentimental, remain noble! Don’t whine!” Or, as he explains that the music toward the end of the piece, while a repeat of earlier material, has a different meaning: “In other words, things are turning nasty,” he explains. And: “It must sound a bit more inaccurate, otherwise it’s too poetic.” The man had a sense of humor too. Once, when no one plays after he gives a downbeat, Celibidache deadpans, “Just a little louder, gentlemen!” And, at one point, he stops conducting, turns away from the orchestra, and looks around. “What is it?” he asks. “There’s a smell of burning. Rubber! The second violins are driving with their brakes on.” He gets a laugh.
As for the performances themselves,
shows that the Stuttgart musicians must have internalized what the conductor worked so hard in rehearsal to reveal and they deliver a performance that’s nuanced, seamlessly communicative, and technically splendid. The
won’t be to everyone’s taste—it’s not played as a virtuoso showpiece and this version can’t compare in terms of visceral excitement with, say, Reiner or Temirkanov. But it is undeniably coherent and logically developed—and very beautiful. Best is the third movement, presented as tender young love rather than an adolescent hormonal awakening. The work of concertmaster Hans Kalafusz and the other first-chair players is very accomplished.
Video quality (a 4:3 aspect ratio, of course) is good, black and white in 1965, color for 1982. The later production is much artsier, with double images (violin and harp, for example, at the outset of “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship”) and shots of instruments going out of focus as the note they are playing fades, The sound is disappointing. The Strauss, both rehearsal and concert, is harsh and flat;
is a little better. The DVD box claims stereo but it all sounds like mono to me. The booklet holds an excellent appreciation of the conductor by a former student, Christoph Schlüren.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Picture format: NTSC 4:3 (full screen)
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (all)
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 53 mins (R. Strauss) + 51 mins (Rimsky-Korsakov)
No. of DVDs: 1 Read less
Works on This Recording
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28 by Richard Strauss
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1894-1895; Germany
Date of Recording: 1/1965
Notes: Rehearsal and performance.
Scheherazade, Op. 35 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1888; Russia
Date of Recording: 11/1982
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