Sergiu Celibidache, Munchner Philharmoniker – Anton Bruckner – Symphonies 4, 6-8 (2012) DSF DSD64

Sergiu Celibidache, Munchner Philharmoniker – Anton Bruckner – Symphonies 4, 6-8 (2012)
DSF Stereo DSD64/2.82MHz  | Time – 05:23:41 minutes | 12,7 GB | Genre: Classical
Source: ISO SACD | ©  Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.

These recordings are from late in Celibidache’s career, recorded between 1989 and 1991 (he died in 1996 at the age of 84). They are representative of the expansive and mystical approach to Bruckner that he developed during his tenure with the Munich Philharmonic. The timings tell the tale. The 4th, for example, is over 1 hour 20 minutes long, compared say with 63 minutes for Haitink’s Philips recording with the Concertgebouw. No major conductor whom I can find has recorded a 4th that is less than 10 minutes shorter than this one. Interestingly, the expansiveness is not uniform. The major stretch occurs in the finale (30″13′ for Celibidache, vs. 19″49′ for Haitink).

The DVDs reveal a compelling podium presence, able to extract gradations of sound with tiny movements of the baton. The Munich Philharmonic is incredibly responsive, and clearly well attuned to their principal conductor’s way with Bruckner. Celibidache conducts from memory and appears to be in a state of mystical communion with the music. He is visibly pained at how quickly the applause begins at the end of the 8th.

Celibidache’s late style has rapturous proponents and violent detractors. This is exactly to be expected, given the extreme nature of his interpretation. And in a sense both groups are correct. It is quite right that nobody conducts Bruckner like Celibidache, and that his interpretation opens up aspects of each symphony that are either hidden or backgrounded with other conductors. The speed at which he moves allows the complex layers of Bruckner’s orchestration to emerge in all their richness, and Celibidache’s ability to shape a melodic contour is really quite extraordinary.

At the same time, however, there are definite losses. At times the musical line is so elongated that momentum is almost lost and it becomes hard to see the wood for the (admittedly wonderful) trees. It is also difficult for Celibidache to bring out some of the rhythmic and tempo contrasts that give structure to Bruckner’s symphonies. The Scherzo in the 8th, for example, lacks the bite and edge that most conductors give it (and that, in my view, it needs to have for the symphony to work). And, more generally, one of the reasons Bruckner’s Adagios are so powerful is that they open up a sense of musical space not present in the other movements. This differentiation can be lost in Celibidache’s interpretations.

To my ear the 8th is the least successful of these concerts, precisely because of this loss of contrast and tension in the outer movements (the Adagio, as might be expected, is very powerful indeed). I had similar problems with the 4th, at least until the last movement. The 7th lends itself more to Celibidache’s ultra-measured approach, but the most successful performance is definitely the 6th.

Acoustically and visually this set is a testament to the vision of a great Bruckner conductor. These will never be reference recordings, but I think that every Brucknerian will want to listen to these recordings, and many will treasure them.


Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)

Symphony No. 4 in E-flat ‘Romantic’
1 I. Bewegt nicht zu schnell
2 II. Andante quasi Allegretto
3 III. Scherzo. Bewegt – Trio. Nicht zu schnell. Keinesfalls schleppend
4 IV. Finale. Bewegt doch nicht zu schnell

Symphony No. 6 in A major
5 I. Majestoso
6 II. Adagio Sehr feierlich
7 III. Scherzo Nicht schnell – Trio Langsam
8 IV. Finale Bewegt doch nicht zu schnell

Symphony No. 7 in E major
9 I. Allegro moderato
10 II. Adagio. Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam
11 III. Scherzo – Trio. Sehr schnell
12 IV. Finale. Bewegt doch nicht schnell

Symphony No. 8 in C minor
13 I. Allegro moderato
14 II. Scherzo. Allegro moderato
15 III. Adagio. Feierlich langsam doch nicht schleppend
16 IV. Finale. Feierlich nicht schnell

Münchner Philharmoniker
Sergiu Celibidache, conductor

Recorded: No. 4: 5 & 6 February 1989, Musikverein; No. 6: 26-30 November 1991, Munich Philharmonic in Gasteig; No. 7: 18 October 1990, Suntory Hall (Tokyo); No. 8: 20 October 1990, Suntory Hall (Tokyo)


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