Originally published on May 20

Celibidache’s conducting of Sibelius Five is indeed of “tremendous power and vision”. This performance from March 26, 1988 (Philharmonie im Gasteig) is not to be confused with a later account of the work (November 8, 1992; http://www.colinscolumn.com/celibidache-conducts-sibeliuss-fifth-symphony-munich-philharmonic-november-8-1992-audio/), either easily distinguished by the very final chord, two timpani strokes in 1992, one on the present performance, which is now released officially on the MPHIL label.

It’s another classic example of ‘Celi’ at his greatest, the ability to suspend time (after all, music has nothing to do with the clock on the wall), to beguile the listener with so many subtleties of timbre and dynamics, and to see a work whole however cosmic the space created. Thus this Sibelius Five, conceived on the grandest of scales, never for a second gets lost, the conductor’s focus unfailing, the playing (painstakingly prepared) totally secure.

What happens here is that everything is made inevitable, not least the transition during the first movement into scherzo-like material, which is momentous/spellbinding in its upheaval, and the attention to rhythm thereafter is meticulous, the cutting loose to the coda thrilling. ‘Celi’ finds so much expression, buoyancy – and flexibility – in the middle movement, and the Finale is a judicious example of not rushing fences – gloriously uplifting flight-taking swans along the way – and letting the music build through its own internal combustion so that, here, the craggy conclusion, opened up in a way rarely encountered, becomes the naturally majestic outcome (awe-inspiring in fact, and overwhelming; fabulous brass-playing), silence as significant as sound on the ultimate page.

The second of the three Firebird Suites (1919, and therefore contemporaneous with the Sibelius) is equally mesmeric and irresistible (October 28, 1982; Herkulessaal), potent with storytelling and fastidious with every aspect of the music, not least clarity of Stravinsky’s scoring, generous with washes of colour, languorously seductive (very personable solo contributions), a fierce/whiplash and hard-hitting ’Infernal Dance’ (King Kaschei on the rampage, dazzling playing), and imposing in the broadly paced apotheosis.

Both of these bountiful beauties have been expertly remastered for excellent sonics, originally captured by Bavarian Radio; and applause is retained albeit separately tracked for programming out, if desired.

MPHIL0025 (distributed through Warner Classics) is released on June 3.