Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Celibidache's Wagner

OK. So, I am a sucker for the iTunes Music Store, not least because it is frequently home to some really obscure recordings. If you can deal with 128 kbps rips, sent whizzing through the digital aether that passes for the "information superhighway" (a laughable term, even more so when I delete my spam-mail), then you can find some gems.

One such record is the EMI disc of Sergiu Celibidache's Wagner, done in Munich - and admirably recorded by the Bayerischer Rundfunk team - during his tenure there. I think, given Wagner's fascination with Buddhism (which needs no reconciliation with Nietzsche, by the way, Herr Schlingensief), that he would find some merit in Celibidache. Some. Not an infinite amount.

Celibidache mocked "camel-drivers," who seem to be roughly equivalent to Wagner's loathed four-square conductors. He was a bit of a crank, and he seemed to earn more fame for his weird Zen Buddhist notions and refusal to record (that worked out, didn't it?) than his work, but he always let his music breathe. His Wagner is broad, almost glacial, by the clock. Note the last bit: "by the clock." Celibidache might take some time getting to the goal, but he lets the music work on its own terms. He seemed to understand that Wagner wrote everything into his score, and you only need to let Wagner tell the musicians - and the conductor - what to do. His Trauermusik, for example, is grand, noble, profoundly sad, and everything that Wagner's Siegfried was supposed to be.

He also respects Wagner's orchestration. Hell, he luxuriates in it. None of this "transparency" business. Celibidache knew that Wagner wrote his music a certain way for it to sound a certain way, and he really lets it go. Everything comes together, the detail is still there, but it serves the orchestral color - rather than being the color. There is a swirling, lush sound - exactly, as I understand it, what Wagner wanted.

Now, I am happy to have a discussion on how appropriate Celibidache was in this music, but I think even the most hardened critic would admit that he comes a lot closer than many conductors would have liked to admit.


At 11:08 AM, Blogger Karl said...

. . . grand, noble, profoundly sad, and everything that Wagner's Siegfried was supposed to be.

I like that.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Smith said...

Thanks again.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Julie Byer said...

Thanks again.  


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