Brought together here in four special volumes the Celibidache series celebrates the extraordinary legacy of his collaboration with the Müncher Philharmoniker portraying the excitement and atmosphere of their live performances. These recordings are unique to EMI Classics and were painstakingly mastered to retain and recreate the vibrancy and impact of Celibidache and the Müncher Philharmoniker’s live performances. 2012 is the centenary of Celibidache’s birth with his estate planning various celebratory activities. EMI Classics are releasing this collection in co-operation with his estate who will help to promote Celibidache’s unique style and output through the release of materials from his archive.
These recordings benefit from the conductor's vast experience and deep thoughtfulness. The orchestra give their best: full-bodied strings, characterful woodwinds, eloquent French horns and weighty brass; the recorded sound is equally satisfying.
Celibidache's way was idiosyncratic - but also brings fresh insights and an integrity of vision. This is evident in the magnificent set of Brahms symphonies and the Schubert Great C major. The latter is conducted with impressive patience - some may find it slow and wooden, but the climax is powerful and deeply satisfying, while the slow movement is as moving and eloquent as I've heard. The Mozart and Haydn works are conducted with a wonderful elan, sensitivity and flair.
The Beethoven symphonies are a special case. Each symphony is reproduced on a vast canvass, with broad horizons balanced by delicate and detailed foregrounds. There is a sense of space, room for each thought to register. Celibidache allows a symphonic idea to develop in an unhurried, unadorned, unmolested way, a method that brings huge cumulative effect. Celibidche's way seems to connect directly with the works' magisterial and transcendent vision, ignoring the limiting, constrictive inadequacies of the performing possibilities of Beethoven's times - Beethoven's own frustration with the contemporary performance possibilites and contemporary instruments is well known.
These are alternative ways with these great and frequently played pieces - allow the conductor to lead you patiently into new horizons.
Warmly recommended - and a bargain to boot!
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Firstly Celibidache conducts a marvelous Drum Roll Symphony and acceptable recordings of the London and Oxford Symphonies and there it ends. It must be an achievement to make beethoven boring but he achieves it. The 9th is the worst of a pretty poor bunch. If you enjoy seeing trees outside the forest then this may please you but great works need to be seen in the whole and not just in short extracts and this conductor gives no idea of the structure of the works. Other conductors take slow speeds but no one else concentrates on the minute. To paraphrase rossini on wagner Celibidache has his moments but he alsO has hos half hours, and there are far too many of them.
Perhaps this set would be worthwhile as a study aid but is that really justification for spending the best part of £20.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Little boxes that don't sound all the same30 Jun. 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Let me start the review with a radical statement: this box is the perfect "beginner's set," that is, we have a good sampling of a unique point of view that is suitable for someone who would like to hear these pieces for the first time. The price is certainly right; the recordings are no embarrassment; but that's not the reason for my recommendation. Instead, ..
Far too often I feel beginners are put off from classical music because they are led to believe that there is one right way to play the pieces. Static, like a painting, someone conveys the idea that there is musical perfection and it should be framed and hung on the wall. At least if you start your tour of the masterpieces from Celibidache's interpretations, everything you hear on the radio will prevent your adoption of the belief that there is only one way to play the music.
OK, so what do we have here?
For some reason, this box is simply labeled Symphonies, and that is not a lie. It consists of live recordings of the major Austrian-German symphonic warhorses into which Celibidache has breathed his own point of view, and thereby new life. The contents are:
Beethoven 2-9, with #4 in there twice. Schumann 2-4. All the Brahms, with the Haydn variations thrown in, too. Schubert 9. Haydn 92, 103 and 104. Mozart 40.
If you are in a hurry to read another review or shop for something else, let me say that for me the "hits" are Haydn 103, Brahms 4, Beethoven 6 and 8, and the Schumann. If you know and love these pieces, you should buy the box. If you don't know these symphonies well, start with the ones I list.
Since you are still here, I will offer my second radical point of view. As I write this on his 100th birthday, if you Google the conductor's name, you will get to read something about the "slow tempo" he chooses for many pieces, and if you continue reading you will likely read something about how he felt there was no correct tempo. As I listen, it is not the tempo that I find to be the most distinctive feature, rather it is his command of the orchestra and the restraint that is placed on the often overbearing string sections in most other performances that I have heard, live or in recordings, of these pieces.
This restraint is probably what makes the Schumann work so well. Schumann was known for having a problem with orchestration that Gustav Mahler thought could be treated posthumously. Mahler set himself the task of re-scoring the symphonies to lighten and tighten. Celibidache takes the approach of holding down the volume and letting the other instruments have their say. It is really too bad that there is no Schumann 1 in this set; in some ways it is his best symphony.
And there is the missing Beethoven 1, as well. That too is a loss, because the Beethoven 1 is certainly one of his most interesting compositions. For what it is worth, the two Beethoven 4s are almost identical, and what discipline it must take to do the same thing twice. The inner movements of 6 are a delight as again, the forest sounds of woodwinds and horns can be heard more clearly than usual. Beethoven's 8 is often overlooked, but Celibidache treats it like the first class citizen of the symphonic world that it in fact is. I am afraid that the 9th is a little lacking, and this time it is the tempo that burns the performance. It simply feels plodding to me.
The Brahms 4 brings out the full tragedy of the piece, quite in contrast to the 1981 Kleiber recording that leaves you feeling that perhaps mankind will finally be OK. Celibidache goes completely off the cliff in his understated way. The audience must have been emotionally exhausted; it is truly cathartic. The other Brahms in the set is quite good, and 3 provides an example of how slower tempi do not always translate into a sense of feeling slow the way that I suggest the Beethoven 9 comes across.
The Schubert and the Mozart are interesting to hear, and the other two Haydn symphonies are each well played. But 103, of which I have recordings by all the usual suspects -- Adam Fischer, Leonard Bernstein, and Sir Colin Davis -- is tremendous. Each time I have listened to it, it is like hearing the piece for the first time. There is something really special here.
It is about $3.25/hour for this music. Order now. Operators are standing by.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Unmissable30 July 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
What an amazing box this is! It contains a Brahms symphony set of truly great performances (that are so distinctive that you need them regardless of which great versions you already have); a nearly complete Beethoven set (the 1st is missing but there are two different 4ths) of great distinction and with many must hear performances; three wonderful Schumann and distinctive symphonies ... plus some good very Haydn, a Mozart and an interesting Schubert "Great".
It is so unfair. I know that many Anglo-Saxon listeners these days hate Celibidache's Munich performances - so I should warn you that you may not feel as I do about this music making - but I just cannot even begin to comprehend why! I have listened almost constantly for a month to this set (and in the months before that to other sets from this period of Celibidache's art) and cannot understand why so many listeners hear nothing but occasional slowness and then go onto equate that with being boring or indulgent.
I suppose it is the Beethoven that is most likely to upset those listeners. Some speeds are unusually slow and Celibidache's Beethoven is a little smoother than is currently fashionable. and even those who enjoy the likes of Bohm and Klemperer in Beethoven may be shocked by how slow some of the scherzos are. But I find that if you give Celibidache's approach a chance it will usually explain itself and win you over. But you can sense some listeners waiting to be shocked, reaching for the score or the booklet and harrumphing to themselves ("this is supposed to be an allegro!"). In any case the music is taut and alive and the narrative is compelling. This is music making that aims to communicate, to enthrall, to uplift and to thrill. It is NOT an old conductor indulging his fine aesthetic sense - not even remotely. It is worth remembering that these are live performances from a conductor who refused to "can" his music by entering a studio. It has been a long time since I hear Beethoven performances that have had the capacity of these accounts to make me listen afresh and with renewed pleasure.
At least four of the Beethoven performances are in the "must hear" category. The 2nd is powerfully Beethovenian - the classical roots are most definitely underplayed - the Choral is astounding and powerful and, until the last movement (which is spoiled by very muddy choral work), is in the same league as Furtwangler's famous recording. The two 4ths are both astonishing. I find that, more than any other Beethoven symphony, I am often dissatisfied with accounts of this symphony. But here I find two different accounts that are quite simply wonderful. The 1995 account is to my mind the finest account on record and the 1987 account is, in it's way, almost as good.
The others are also very worthwhile if not as great as these accounts. They all exhibit Celibidache's ability to make the music sing, to clarify lines of melody and harmony and to work towards and end. The 5th is very good - an impressive and memorable account; the Eroica and the Pastoral are both successful. The 7th is perhaps less satisfactory - for once Celibidache fails to convince me that his rather ponderous tempo for the first movement has a sound purpose. Things improve after that but it is only in the last movement that the performance really takes flight.
And so the set goes on. The rest is just as special or more so.
The Brahms should be less controversial. The speeds are generally within the normal range. These are powerful accounts in lovely sound. There are at least two other sets of Celibidache conducting these symphonies and both are excellent. This set is less thrilling and less driven but the performances are filled with lovely moments and details and are all totally involving.
Celibidache's Schumann came as something of a surprise. Given his taste for clarifying textures and lines I had expected that he would be markedly successful in clarifying Schumann's allegedly muddy textures. But he does no such thing. He dives into them and enriches them and makes them generate a powerful, muscular and almost "geological" language to speak to us through. I know of no other Schumann accounts that seek to work in this way.
Nearly every performance here succeeds on its own terms and so much that is here is really exceptional. I suspect that most prospective buyers will already have accounts of most of the music in this set. They will therefore be buying this set to hear something different, something out of the ordinary, something that will enrich their souls and fill them with the joy that only truly inspired music making can deliver. There is no reason on earth to hesitate!