The SWR recording of the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR features the Stuttgart orchestra led by the late Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache in Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 in B-Flat Major and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique.”
The Haydn symphony gets a heavy-handed, plodding, souped up approach in the slow movements, and an annoyingly rushed take in the Vivace and Allegro sections, as if the hapless maestro were in a hurry to get things over with. The Tchaikovsky fares better though not by much, given the Romanian conductor’s propensity for self-indulging over-emphasis at the expense of an overall stylistic cohesiveness and unifying style.
Given Celibidache’s infamously exaggerated and endlessly long rehearsal periods along with his infamous verbal abuse of orchestra members it is no surprise that American orchestras would not have him, so much so that his United States debut did not come until he was in his seventies and not with a major ensemble but rather with the Curtis Institute of Music student orchestra.
I have no idea as to how or why this recording came to be, knowing that Celibidache did not like to release his performances on commercial recordings during his lifetime, pompously claiming that a listener could not have a “transcendental experience” outside the concert hall.
Supposedly a devotee of Zen Buddhism, Celibidache’s sexist, anti-American, anti-Jewish views made headlines when he fired American trombone player Abbie Conant from the position that she had rightfully earned in the Berlin Philharmonic. A 12-year long legal battle followed at the end of which the German court ruled in Conant’s favor.
Much against the permanently unhappy Celibidache’s reputation were his frequent verbal attacks against many conductors of the time – Von Karajan, Toscanini, and Bernstein among others being the targets of his poisoned tongue. All that and the vague suspicion among many that his having remained active in Berlin during the Third Reich’s years is beyond unthinkable, and it renders as wholly unacceptable Celbidache’s admission into the pantheon of great 20th century conductors.
Rafael de Acha © 2022
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