I admit that I am not very familiar with the work of Sergiu Celibidache. For one thing, I have been put off by the messianic tone of his admirers. But then I never heard him conduct, have had very little exposure to his meager legacy of commercial recordings (or even that flood of 'unauthorized' recordings that began after he died) and have never talked with anyone who knew him personally or played under him. So it was interesting to watch the thirty minute rehearsal segment of Strauss's 'Till Eulenspiegel' on this DVD. In that 1965 black and white film we see Celibidache rehearsing the SWR Radio Symphony of Stuttgart and, it must be said, being rather high-handed in his treatment of the players. Although he tried to soften his tone about 'mistakes' the players made -- and frankly I thought he was nit-picking in a way that surely was not particularly helpful for the players; and, my goodness, he talked a lot! -- he still came across, to my mind, as patronizing. Even in the concert segment of 'Till' one could see him making angry faces at the players when they did something that displeased him. Add to that the hagiographic -- and extremely pretentious -- booklet notes by Christoph Schüren who reportedly 'studied with Celibidache for many years' and I was left overall with a negative impression. I do understand that a conductor must get across his intentions to the orchestra when rehearsing but I do think it can be done without demeaning the musicians, or by talking and talking. It was rare that the orchestra played more than a few bars before he stopped them, usually peremptorily, even angrily, and began again expounding his views.
That said, the two concert segments -- the 'Till' performance and a 1982 beautifully filmed performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade' (in richly saturated color) -- were very nicely played, although I did have some problems with Celibidache's arbitrary distortions of tempi. I can't say that these performances were notably better than others I've heard/seen, but perhaps I was already of a mind to resist Celibidache's legend.
So, this DVD is for those who already admire the conductor or for those who want to see his rehearsal style for themselves, as well as have two reasonably acceptable performances of two orchestral warhorses.
I hope I have made my biases clear and that anyone reading this review will take them into account.
Sound: PCM Stereo; Rehearsal and Titles in German; Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish; Disc format: DVD 9; TT=104mins