Magazine article Gramophone

Youthful Maverick, on a Roll: Celibidache's Single-Minded Vision in Berlin Performances from the 1940s and '50S

Magazine article Gramophone

Youthful Maverick, on a Roll: Celibidache's Single-Minded Vision in Berlin Performances from the 1940s and '50S

Article excerpt

Anyone who attended the concerts of Sergiu Celibidache from the 1970s through to the late 1990s, with their uncommonly spacious tempi, long-breathed phrases and transparent textures, may well be surprised by the fiery, even elemental mood of certain of his Berlin recordings from the mid-1940s and 1950s. Audite has already released 'The Complete RIAS Recordings' (9/11) and now offer a generous and often revealing 13-disc follow-up, 'The Berlin Recordings 1945-1957'. Some of this material has already surfaced from other sources, though for the most part in less good sound (Audite had access to the original radio tapes).

The orchestras featured are the BPO, the Berlin Radio SO and the DSO Berlin, and the range of repertoire takes us from beefy, 'Philharmonic' style Baroque (Purcell and Vivaldi) to such interesting 20th-century rarities as Gunter Raphael's Fourth Symphony, Chavez's First, Rudi Stephan's Music for Orchestra and the imposing Vorspiel zu einem Revolutionsdrama by Celibidache's composition teacher Heinz Tiessen. Copland's Appalachian Spring enjoys marginally more repose than its RIAS predecessor (the two performances are merely two days apart), both of them bright and bushy-tailed, if a little stubbly at times. Works by Milhaud (Suite frangaise and excerpts from his Suite symphonique No 2) are convincingly played, as are Barber's Capricorn Concerto, Walter Piston's Second Symphony and Shostakovich's Ninth (though the opening notes are snipped). Celibidache brings a relaxed sense of wit to Stravinsky's Jeux de cartes whereas in Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel, wit and drama combine to generate dazzling levels of energy and excitement.

Of the various works with soloists or singers, Margarete Klose is in truly wonderful voice for five orchestrated Wolf songs and a German-language version of Saint-Saens's 'Softly awakes my heart'. The perennially girlish Ema Berger remains securely sky-bound in Gliere's Concerto for coloratura soprano. Although undoubtedly historically important, pianist Raoul Koczalski neutralises the colour potential in Chopin's Second Concerto. The wonderful Hungarian-born cellist Tibor de Machula had been Furtwangler's desk-leader with the BPO for the duration of the war and although his 1945 account of Dvorak's Concerto offers plenty of expressive ardour, there are roughshod moments that for some may prove difficult to tolerate on repetition. …

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