experience of Celibidache in this repertoire has so far been
concentrated on his Italian period: just one Haydn symphony,
no. 102 (Naples 1958), and slightly more Mozart: Symphonies
36 (Naples 1959), 39 (Turin 1969), and 41 (Milan 1960), the
Haffner Serenade (Naples 1968), Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Naples
1959), the C minor Mass (Rome 1960) and the Requiem (Turin 1968).
Even then he was beginning to spread himself metaphysically
in the big choral works but in the orchestral pieces he just
concentrated on getting brilliant, straightforward performances
at “normal” tempi.
in 1994 his performance of the Mozart G minor could still be
described as at the slow end of “normal”. But, while several
conductors who have avoided a too obviously driving energy in
the first movement – such as Böhm or even Klemperer – have ended
up sounding heavy or at least staid, Celibidache manages not
to. The lower instruments have been lightened and the texture
purified. Furthermore, Celibidache is able to obtain the sort
of individual shaping of phrases in fast passage work which
we normally think of as possible only with soloists. Unanimity
of pointing at that level is just beyond most orchestras and
conductors. There is also, in this first movement – but I think
not elsewhere – the sort of slight adjustment to tempi which
is more generally associated with pianists, who have only themselves
to keep together with. Like Bruno Walter, Celibidache makes
a tiny pause before the second subject.
first movement based on elegance and refinement of phrasing
may not sound very exciting, and one may prefer the surging
drama of Furtwängler or the fresh vigour of the young Colin
Davis’s first recording. But if the music is not dramatic in
Celibidache’s hands, it has great poignancy and I think this
performance is important since it shows – for the first time
in my experience – that this approach can actually work.
Andante is again slowish but without heaviness. More than most
conductors, Celibidache avoids slogging away with six crashing
accents in every bar. There is an affecting timelessness to
Minuet has a sort of proud stoicism and the extraordinary articulation
of the strings in the finale actually makes it seem rather fast,
whatever the stopwatch may say. There is, though, plenty of
space for a poignantly expressive second subject.
set down in the era of Harnoncourt, Norrington and the original
instruments brigade, this is a performance which has to be compared,
if at all, with the giants of earlier times, particularly Furtwängler
and Walter. It will not be found wanting in this company and
it has a moving character all of its own.
Haydn is more problematic. Celibidache certainly makes Haydn
sound a big composer, and there can be nothing wrong with that.
He does not lighten the lower instruments as he did in Mozart,
concentrating on grandeur and a full sound. But he is very slow.
The sheer distance between the three staccato chords which open
the symphony rather takes the breath away. The extreme slowness
of the following sustained passage certainly highlights the
dissonance of some of the writing. The “Allegro spiritoso” has
energy as well as breadth, but somehow its stately progress
seems a little uneventful.
“Adagio” is just about as slow as can possibly be imagined.
The extreme refinement of the phrasing holds the ear in the
outer sections by its sheer beauty, but the central section
fails to sound interesting at this tempo. Something similar
happens in the Minuet, which manages to maintain a certain Ländler-like lilt in spite of the grandeur, while in the Trio the
music is becalmed, the phrases sitting side by side without
continuity. In general, the extreme length of the pauses Haydn
inserts at various places in this Symphony – all rigorously
given their full value by Celibidache – may be taken as evidence
that he envisaged faster tempi. When they are as long as here,
instead of keeping you guessing, the music goes dead.
Finale is another matter. There’s a delightful bucolic lilt
at the beginning. Haydn’s “Presto” encourages at least an Allegro
from Celibidache and there’s a fiery spirit to the proceedings.
All the same, it’s a bit late in the day. Perhaps Celibidache’s
best Haydn is to be sought from earlier in his career.
difficult to know what sort of overall recommendation to give.
The Celibidache phenomenon was really a world all of its own.
Those fascinated by it will want everything they can get, regardless
of what I or anyone else may say. Others will be suspicious
of modern myths and decide to give it a miss. The latter group
will miss, in this case, an unusual but revelatory recording
of Mozart 40.
sound is fine and the booklet substantial. It adopts, though,
a somewhat myth-creating stance which some will not like.