(1912-1996) is remembered particularly for his antipathy towards
recordings, demanding many rehearsals and for his performances
of Bruckner symphonies. Two incomplete series of live recordings
have been released from his Munich
years. These were enthusiastically reviewed here by Colin Anderson
in 2000. Generally, the later Munich recordings seem to be held
in higher regard and in these he tended to adopt particularly
slow tempi, especially in the later symphonies.
The Munich EMI box
is still available at the time of writing but most of the separate
releases of the individual symphonies have been deleted and
some are now appearing as Arkiv CDs. The current situation on
the ArkivMusic website is that the fourth and seventh are available
as the original issues costing around $29 and $35 respectively
- the seventh runs to two discs and is coupled with the Te
Deum. These two single disc Arkiv CDs of the third and sixth
cost $17 each and therefore are effectively mid-price re-issues.
The original booklets are provided and these include valuable
articles about Celibidache’s Bruckner although the typescript
on my copies is not as “sharp” as one might expect.
The jewel in the
crown of Celibidache’s magnificent Munich recordings is probably
the fourth symphony. It is very long-breathed in all four movements
and runs to 79 minutes. These two performances share many of
the same characteristics of Celi’s fourth but neither is uniformly
slow throughout, as shown by comparisons with two fairly “middle-of-the-road”
Bruckner practitioners. The last three movements of the third
are hardly different in timings from Skrowaczewski’s
performance of the same edition but the first movement is markedly
slower - 25 v 19 minutes. It is worth noting that the truncated
final revision of the work i.e. the 1888-9 edition is used.
In the sixth, it is the adagio that is slow here – 22 minutes
in comparison with 17 in Haitink’s
recently issued Dresden performance, whereas the timings for
the other three movements are almost identical.
In general, Celi was at his most magnificent when he was at his
slowest. Generally, I don’t favour Bruckner taken particularly
slowly but Celibidache is a special case and he always seemed
to justify it. Nor were his tempi necessarily completely steady
but variations were naturally moulded. The orchestral playing
was consistently marvellous and balance between orchestral sections
nigh on perfect. These were performances which had both the big
picture and all the detail of phrasing and dynamics one could
wish for, and they were very well recorded indeed.
This recording of
the sixth is certainly based on a single performance whereas
the third has two consecutive dates quoted. There is some audience
noise on both occasions but not enough to provide a serious
distraction. Applause is retained and the disc of the sixth
also includes the opening applause before the performance. All
applause is separately tracked and can easily be programmed
out. Amazingly, there is at least 10 seconds of light rustling
at the end of the sixth before it begins.
Arkiv CD of the sixth might now be the best place to start investigating
Celi’s Bruckner. The third is highly recommendable too. But
be warned – you’ll probably be unable to resist collecting the