As an installment in a series on" Munichers of the Century" the
Sueddeutsche Zeitung today ran a retrospective piece concerning Sergiu
Celibidache written by the current boss of Carnegie Hall, Franz Xaver
Ohnesorg. It was the latter, then director of the Munich Philharmonic,
who originally hired on Celi for an innings that was to last 17 years.
Ohnesorg isn't explicit about why he chose Celi but his piece provides
some clues. A quote by Daniel Barenboim, who from childhood had known
Barenboim, is one of those. "He wasn't better or worse than other
conductors. He was different--the sharpest musical mind I ever
Ohnesorg backgrounds this by noting that Celi had studied mathematics and
philosophy in his native Rumania, followed by music in Paris and Berlin.
"As decisive as this was for him mentally, scarcely less important proved
to be his encounter with Wilhelm Furtwaengler."
Furtwaengler, who was 26 years older, took Celi under his wing. Ohnesorg
relates that once when Celi wanted to know how to handle a transition in
a Bruckner symphony and asked how, and how quickly, to handle the beat,
Furtwaengler shot back:" What do you mean, how fast? Do it as fast as it
_sounds_." Ohnesorg, pondering the meaning of this, ventures that it is a
prescription for a conductor's commitment. "He is committed to listen; he
is committed to that which actually emerges as sound,to what actually is
playing--he is not committed to theory."
A quick run-through of Celi's year with the Berlin Philharmonic follows,
first as its leader and then,upon Furtwaengler's return to Berlin, simply
as a conductor. He recalls that Celi conducted the day before Furtwaengler
died, 30 November 1954. Two weeks later the orchestra elected Karajan, not
Celi, as its head.
"The trauma of that sat deep," Ohnesorg writes. "Celibidache's years
after it were resembled permanent withdrawal, flight." Even though he
enjoyed success in Sweden, Denmark, South America and Spain he couldn't
settle down. And when Ohnesorg one day in 1978 tried calling him from
Munich to see whether he might be interested in taking over there, Celi
merely gruffed: "I'm not interested in Munich." But Ohnesorg wouldn't give
up so easily. He told Celi that he was new at the Philharmonic and had
some ideas. "Well, that's different,"the voice at the other end said."
Come on up."
Concludes Ohnesosrg: " If you think abaut the Munich Philharmonic's
century, then along with it think of Sergiu Celibidache who, as
Generalmusikdirektor, led it to hitherto unattained heights."