To the end of my days, I will never understand how anyone, let alone a `rough and ready' school-teacher from Ansfelden, could compose a work such as Bruckner's Fifth Symphony. Far more than any endeavour by NASA, it the closest that mankind will ever come to reaching the stars. It is more of a celestial wonder than the Horsehead Nebula or a magellanic cloud.
Sergiu Celibidache expounded the view that Bruckner was the greatest of symphonists - and he won't get any counter-argument from yours truly. Here in this concert with the Munich Philharmonic from 1985, he measures himself against this stupendous creation and the results are riveting. Firstly, the visuals are terrific; many of these productions from the Eighties look grainy but not this one - it almost could have been filmed with a digital camera. Celibidache conducts from memory. His mastery is absolute, even with minimal gestures. Indeed, he actually stops conducting in the first movement to listen to the Munich Philharmonic as it struts its stuff. Come the coda of the finale, he adds a vocal line of his own and who can blame him - ` la la la la' - as all things converge. Nor is this the conductor as Stacee Jaxx; unlike his nemesis in Berlin, Celibidache does not hog the spotlight to the detriment of the orchestra.
As to the performance itself, it is stately, reverential and long-breathed. At twenty four minutes plus, the Adagio is rightly played as a threnody rather than a sprint through the local park with dish-lickers in train. The Munich Philharmonic plays for all it is worth and more. Perhaps in the last analysis it lacks the torque and incandescence of the Berlin Philharmonic but there is still much to luxuriate in. Better still, it looks as if Celi - a notorious martinet - forced the orchestra collectively to visit the barber before the concert itself: thankfully, mullets (otherwise known as `ape-drapes', `neck-warmers' 'follicular mudflaps' and `New Zealand Passport Photos') are refreshingly absent (with nothing to lose, the Munich Philharmonic normally transgresses in this realm - Anna Wintour would rather drink gasoline than be seen with them).
Gun stuff. Go for it!
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