Admirers will find
much to interest them in this DVD for whilst parts of it have
appeared before, such as portions of the Till rehearsal – it’s
in part two of the Art Of Conducting – the fuller context brings
greater rewards. The rehearsal was given in 1965 and was captured
in black and white film.
It’s notable for the richness of Celibidache’s
verbal pointers. He wears slacks and a jumper. I noted down
some of the more enlightening sallies; and they come thick and
fast. “Too much bow” is perhaps a conductorial commonplace,
though as often as not it’s too little bow that’s the problem
not too much. Not for Celi in Strauss. “Vibratissimo” is a vibrant
usage and certainly gets the strings working as does his encouraging
“very intelligent” to the first violins before adding – a master
of psychology - that he’d like them to repeat the passage because
they weren’t together. Some of his comments to the string section
are the most revealing of his methodology and show one how he
liked to build up the string sound. He’s insistent that the
bowing of the second violins and violas is tied to the firsts.
At one point he steps off the rostrum to discuss technical matters
with the orchestra’s leader leading to an outburst of relieved
schoolboy chatter in the ranks. Then again how could you resist
– but how to put into effect? – his commanding cry of “Remain
So whilst remaining
epic and displaying the requisite intelligence – for string
tone, balance – one needs to be careful over rhythmic matters
under Celi’s watchful eye. He’s solicitous though, adding “I
don’t want to hustle the horns” whilst admonishing the basses
to “work together.” He rightly stops the increasingly flat horn
section and comes down hard on “spaghetti” bowing – he can be
very funny when he wants to be – and all the while he mentions
part of the Til narrative to the orchestra to encourage
and sharpen their musico-dramatic sense. I certainly can’t imagine
too many of his contemporaries telling their orchestra “metal
strings are no good – smells of burning.” He’s clearly after
a more burnished sound though he doesn’t need to spell it out.
He dances like a dervish too when the rhythm begins to hot up
though things get deliriously carried away when after giving
an upbeat nothing happens – and conductor and band dissolve
into delighted laughter. Though of course he remains in control
to the end, admonishing the players not to get sentimental.
These camera shots are well filmed, generally from the behind
the back desk of the first fiddles. The subsequent concert performance
features a little shaky camera work but is otherwise unobtrusive;
in black and white again obviously.
concert footage comes from nearly twenty years later and is
in colour. The saturnine dervish has aged into a portly, grey
haired seignior. It’s a pleasure to see him smile with
pleasure at the climaxes, as it is to see his shimmering left
hand encouraging more string tone. The performance is slow though
not as slow as it was to become but also full of beautiful curvature
and colour. The camera set up is conventional and relatively
expert. But the same can’t be said of the sound, which is annoyingly
opaque and will dampen your ardour. You can hear it in much
better sound on DG 445141-2.
Despite these caveats
the longish Strauss rehearsal will merit a place on your shelf.
It is an interesting character study – of control, relaxation,
terseness and more floridly encouraging praise. Psychologically
it’s a rewarding half an hour plus – and the performance shows
the translation of those ideas and ideals in fine fashion.