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Symphony for solo piano




Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor (version 1888-9 ed. Nowak) [66:42]
((i) Mehr langsam, Misterioso [25:07] (ii) Adagio, bewegt, quasi Andante [16:38] (iii) Ziemlich schnell [7:46] (iv) Allegro [15:04])
Münchner Philharmoniker/Sergiu Celibidache
rec. live, Philharmonie am Gasteig, München, Germany, 19-20 March 1987. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 56689 2 9 [66:42]





Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 6 in A (1879-81) Ed. Haas
((i) Majestoso [17:02] (ii) Adagio. Sehr feierlich [22:01] (iii) Scherzo. Nicht schnell – Trio. Langsam [8:18] (iv) Finale. Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell [15:08])
Münchner Philharmoniker/Sergiu Celibidache
rec. live, Philharmonie am Gasteig, München, Germany, 29 November 1991. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 56694 2 1 [65:46]

Sergiu Celibidache (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 and Stuttgart 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.

This inexpensive 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 rest.

Patrick C Waller




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