George Enescu, 1881-1955, pictured.
1978, Bucharest, Sergiu Celibidache (1912-96), a native of Romania, if particularly associated today with orchestras in Stuttgart and Munich, and not forgetting some remarkable LSO appearances, here conducts the George Enescu Philharmonic. Despite limited sound, it’s a fizzing performance of a terrific piece.
Please see below, in Comments, for another link to this video.
Superb …… Surely no performance could be more “Romanian” than this. I liked the way Celibidache danced his way through it.
A real tonic on a rainy lockdown morning
One of the classic performances, inimitable phrasing and rubato … I know someone in Paris whose guilty secret is collecting any and every performance of Ravel’s Bolero – she must be the world authority … My vice is collecting any of the two Romanian Rhapsodies I can find … there’s a nostalgic performance of the Second circulating the web, with Horia Andreescu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GfYxIWzu34 Celibidache’s approach is unique. He doesn’t so much choreograph the piece as characterise the people within it – every gesture, visual animation, baleful eye, shy glance, shrug of the shoulder catching, telling, a story, a mood, states of mind. All are before us – the flirtatious girl, the sly money lender, crowds dancing, complaining wives, gossiping in the market, children at play, tumblers, weary old men, open spaces, gypsies from the Ottoman east, Jews from Odessa … It’s a brilliant interpretation, body language more than baton coaxing the players to respond. They don’t play so much as live a story. 1978. Ceaușescu’s Bucharest. That April Celi came to London to conduct the LSO in three concerts – a privilege to attend and have been a small part of. Amazing Hindemith and Prokofiev.
The LSO Prokofiev that Ates mentions was selections from Romeo & Juliet, simply stunning. That concert (the Hindemith was his Mathis der Maler Symphony) opened with a definitive account of the overture to Verdi’s Force of Destiny. Another 24-carat LSO/Celi occasion coupled La mer with Scheherazade: extraordinary things happened that night in the Royal Festival Hall, especially during the mesmerising Debussy. Following the Rimsky were encore Dances, one Hungarian, the other Slavonic.
Re the LSO Romeo selections, I was in the Hall and for the climaxes of the Tomb Scene the ground under our feet virtually shook. I know the BBC has this concert on tape – I’ve heard it – so maybe LSO Live could loan it from them. As I recall SC encored ‘Masques’ which, on both occasions, he took at a comically slow tempo (typically theatrical). The audience went mad! Not sure I’d call the Forza Overture ‘definitive’: Doráti and Markevitch (the former also with the LSO) would I’d say fit that description rather more securely. But that’s just my view. Best. Rob.
Hi Rob, Celi’s Verdi has haunted me ever since that night, in its pacing, excitement and eloquence, right through to the perfectly weighted and sounded cymbal clashes. Col
Extra calories were burned while I watched this astride my rowing machine early this morning. Tremendous, life-enhancing. I imagine that such apparent spontaneity was achieved only by shedloads of rehearsal! Which leads me to return to my plaint: how did the incandescent Celibidache of that wartime Egmont Overture, this Enescu and that glorious footage of Brahms with Menuhin morph into the musically obese, over-thinking figure of latter years? My better half sang in his London Brahms Requiem and tells me he was on the verge of needing an iron lung with the funereal tempi! (Ach, Col, will you ever speak to me again?)
I hope to speak with you many times over many years, Andrew. I was at that Celi/LSO German Requiem, all ninety minutes of it (a timing swelled by long breaks between movements, and – note – of similar length to a Philharmonia performance under Kurt Sanderling; contrast that with the sixty Kurt Masur & the LPO managed in of all places St Paul’s Cathedral: he really mastered that voluminous acoustic) and thought what Celi conjured quite wonderful. Glad Peter survived Celi’s machinations. I wonder if he can remember the soprano soloist (I can’t, although Margaret Marshall comes to mind); Alan Titus was the baritone. Andrew, I have a lovely image of you astride your rowing machine! Col
PS I may have been mistaken about Kurt Sanderling conducting German Requiem. Checking back, I found a Philharmonia Chorus & Orch performance (on the Chorus’s website) under Wolfgang Sawallisch in the Royal Albert Hall that was live on Radio 3, which is how I heard it, on November 15, 1981, about right date-wise:
“Julia Varady – soprano
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau – baritone
Chorus Master – Heinz Mende
conducted by Wolfgang Sawallish [sic]
BBC Radio 3 live relay”
I believe this to be the performance that I referenced but miscredited. However, not certain!
Thanks to Peter and Andrew for naming Celi’s soprano: Isobel Buchanan.
Celi Enescu video now here: