Celibidache: Conductors are the most ignorant … after (the) press

Celibidache: Conductors are the most ignorant … after (the) press


norman lebrecht

August 28, 2017

Henrik Engelbrecht has unearthed a 1978 Danish Television interview with the strong-minded maestro. He goes on to announce that Danish musician lack ambition.

The poor interviewer does not know what to ask next.


  • Rich C. says:

    Sounds like a Trumpster.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Was he any good? I can only listen to his Bruckner for a couple minutes because of its plodding lethargy.

    • “It’s complicated.”

      Real answer—NO!, Celibadache was not a very good conductor. However, Celibadache had and continues to have a cult following in spite of constantly ignoring tempo indications. Maybe the man suffered from projection, as many of the bilious and bombastic do so very often.

      • Fabio Luisi says:

        With all respect, how can you say that he was not a good conductor? How are you qualified to sustain your opinion? You might not like him, but affirming that he was not a good conductor is going a bit too far, don’t you think?

        • John Kelly says:

          Miss you in New York maestro…………

        • Sue says:

          I don’t know if you remember the letter Carlos Kleiber wrote to a newspaper, as a joke, about Celibidache.


          • Petros Linardos says:

            Kleiber’s famous letter is very entertaining, but doesn’t it say more about Kleiber than about Celibidache?

          • DESR says:

            In English…

            Dear Sergiu!!

            We have read in you the Spiegel. You get on our nerves, but we forgive you. We have no choice anyway; forgiveness is in style Up Here. Potato-sack Karli (Bohm) made some objection, but after Kna (Knappersbusch) and I had a heart-to-heart with him, he stopped whining.

            Wilhelm (Furtwangler) now all of a sudden insists that he has never even heard of you. Papa Josef, Wolfgang Amadeus, Ludwig, Johannes, and Anton all prefer the second violins on the right and claim that your tempi are all wrong. But actually, they don’t really give a damn about it. Up Here we are not supposed to care a damn about anything. The Boss does not allow it.

            An old Zen master who lives next door says you got it all wrong about Zen Buddhism. Bruno (Walter) is totally cracked up by your comments. I have the suspicion that he secretly shares your views about me and Karli (Bohm). Maybe you could say something mean about him for a change, otherwise he feels so left out.

            I hate to break it to you, but everybody up here is totally crazy about Herbert (von Karajan). In fact, the other conductors are a little jealous of him. We can’t wait to welcome him up here in about 15 or 20 years. Too bad you can’t be with us then.

            But people say that where you will go the cuisine is much better, and the orchestras down there never stop rehearsing. They even make little mistakes on purpose, so that you have a chance to correct them for all eternity. I’m sure you will like that, Sergui. Up Here, the angels read the composers’ minds. We conductors only have to listen. Only God knows why I’m here.

            Have lots of fun,
            In old friendship,

        • Mark Henriksen says:

          I didn’t say that he is a bad conductor but you seem to be advancing the self-serving idea that judgement of conductors can only be subjective. With a bad conductor, the audience applauds for something that is only a shadow of what it could have been.

          • Fabio Luisi says:

            I was responding to Mr. Landseadel’s comment. And there are objective criteria for judging a conductor, but the choice of a tempo is not the most appropriate (since very often depending on the venue), more important imho are vertical coordination, sound balance, phrasing, breathing, intensity, color, dynamics, articulation.

        • ben LEGEBEKE says:

          He was an overrated conductor. Talking bad all the time about other conducters. Conductors like Karajan, Böhm and Bernstein. In my opinion they were much more interesting than Celi. Claiming he was a buddhist ,but people convicted to this religious life philosophy are never talking or gossiping about other people in this way.

        • Mark Henriksen says:

          I will point out that a conductor, Pierre Boulez, who I have played for and respect highly has written about the importance of choice of tempo. In his comments he paraphrases Wagner who said that it is the most important musical choice a conductor makes. Boulez supports that statement and basically says that tempo (here I am drawing the analogy, not Boulez, but it is an accurate one) is like a scientific measurement, which is a number with a small error that gives the range of tempi where what the conductor wrote, speaks clearly. I would also like to ask you one more question. Do you really think a conductor can be called “good” who can’t thoroughly prepare, for example, a Chicago Symphony concert in the standard 4 rehearsals?

          • Dan P. says:

            Actually, Celibidache spoke to that issue on many occasions. His position was this: with a great orchestra there are countless possibilities of tone color both individually and in the way the instruments blend with one another. One needs time to explore the various possibilities. With a mediocre orchestra – not so much because they are limited in what they can do. His only concern was getting to the point where every possibility had been explored – but more than that – to the point where each player was an inextricable part of the whole – which took extraordinary patience and the ability to hear everyone and balance oneself perfectly in the texture. In short – the better the orchestra, the more time the orchestra needed to achieve what he was striving for. One may agree or disagree, but he wasn’t particularly concerned with “getting the show on the road.” For him, it just wasn’t worth it otherwise.

            Another position Celibidache held was that the conductor was only a necessary evil. He was there to preside over the orchestra finding its way into a work during rehearsals and during a concert provided only the minimum to keep the ensemble together and provide certain other cues and then let the orchestra play. But I think that’s true of many great conductors of the first part of the 20th century. (As opposed to many contemporary conductors who need to “express” themselves as they conduct.)

            As for Boulez – for whom I have enormous respect and with whom I worked on one occasion – as precise as he could be at times, he could also be enormously sloppy and slapdash as well. I saw both sides many times in New York during his tenure here.

        • Ladyhawkke says:

          Celidibache was a genius like no other

      • Novagerio says:

        Robin…where to start?….How about you cleaned your ears for starters?…”Tenmpo observations”? Please, elaborate on that….What do you for starters know about “the right tempo”?m Does it depend on your “favourite” reording in your private shelf? Or do you actually know the slightest about given acoustical conditions? I guess nott, cos apparently you have never conducted or performed anywhere outside your soffa at home…but try this, if it ever happens: try to conduct the Eroica exactly at metronome 60 once in the Royal Albert Hall or the damned Gasteig Philharmonie, and then in a dry cinema hall or an outdoors facility, and then we’ll all see how deaf you actually are.

        Now, of course Mr.Lebrecht had to open a can of worms on this issue, given the huge ammount of Besserwissern on this thread….

        “Was he any good at all”?… Well, try it yourselves then!! Let’s all behold the magic you can create with any given orchestra at any given acoustical condition at any given moment! Cos if you think the phenomenon Music is something that can be snapshot as a photography, then people like Robin are simply barking amateurs who should stick to blogging and revealing their hopeless ignorance right into the open. And believe me matem you’re not alone!

        • Fabio Luisi says:

          Hear, hear!

        • That was exactly one of the main reasons why Celibidache in his life time strictly refused the publication of his recordings. What he perceived as the right tempo when conducting in a certain venue could become deadly wrong during playback through a CD at home. And that’s the case not only to the ears of an amateur, even if Celibidache himself listen to the recording, I could well imagine that he would get furious after 3 seconds and shout out: “Das ist nicht mein Tempo!”, similar to a case he wrote about Wilhelm Furtwängler in an article titled “Wie ein Leuchtturm”.


          So nobody is wrong here. You are just talking about totally different things. No need to get too agitated.

        • Mark Henriksen says:

          “…but you seem to have forgotten that people on this or just any other public thread are completely freely entitled to have opinions about voices, players and conductors ”

          Something for us all to keep in mind when addressing fellow SD posters.

        • “First of all one must understand, or we must agree upon, what music actually is. There are aspects of it that are totally unknown. To start at the end: What is tempo?”

          This is maybe the most in-depths Celibidache’s interview existing, at the moment.
          I assume many readers here know it very well, but some maybe don’t, or possibly don’t know it enough. Maybe someone is not interested or cannot even understand what he is talking about: in fact, these kind of basic but “intellectual” discussions may seem nowadays, with most of the conductors, completely unfeasible.
          This is also an historical document, giving a hint of how discussions about music were intended, in the last century, by the most intelligent German speaking area musicians.
          A treasure which seems completely lost, unfortunately, to my eyes.

          So please, everyone really interested in understanding some of Celibidache’s personal views on music, have a look to it, and then a real prolific discussion can be started:

    • Paul Joschak says:

      That’s Bruckner’s fault, not the conductor’s.

  • Richard Rosenberg says:

    In 1990 I spent a week as his driver. He would only talk about race cars and food.

    After that week he invited me to live in his home and to “become [his] spiritual heir.” I declined. Every one of his students became paralyzed with doubt and were never heard from again.

    That said, his concert at Carnegie Hall with the Curtis orchestra was one of the finest concerts I have ever heard.

    • John Kelly says:

      I was also at that concert. A member of the Philadelphia cello section told me the night afterwards “I feel ashamed to go on tonight after what those kids did LAST night.”

      I also heard Celi with the LSO in London conduct the most fabulous performance of the Tippett Midsummer Marriage Ritual Dances…………….

    • Don Ciccio says:

      When Constantin Brancusi was offered to study with Rodin, he declined saying that “nothing can grow in the shadow of a great tree” (you’ll see variation on this quote online). That’s what happened to many Celi students.

      That said, Jiri Belohlavek and Eliahu Inbal were Celibidache’s students, so not all were paralyzed after all…

      Then of course, there is the issue: great conductor / artist or great teacher? Hans Swarowsky is on no one’s list of great conductors – IMO he deserves better than his reputation – but it is on everybody’s short list of great teachers.

    • Dan P. says:

      I was at that concert too and so was, it seemed, every major musician in town. The 30-minute standing ovation they gave hem was like nothing I’ve never seen anything like that at Carnegie Hall. The first time I heard him conduct was a 1970s radio concert featuring the Mozart Symphony #41 and Ein Heldenleben with the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra.. I had intended it just as background but within moments of the Jupiter, I just had to sit down and listen. I had never heard members of an orchestra play with such awareness of and sensitivity to one another. It was like the best chamber music.

      Of course, not every performance hits the mark. I heard a live concert that opened with what can only be described as the coldest and darkest interpretation of the Overture to the Barber of Seville in history – infused, as it was with the spirit of Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony. But the Brahms 4th that followed was wonderful. He was quite old and frail by this point.

      As for his opinions about other conductors, one can only surmise that he just said what many other conductors think but don’t say. (A rather waspish public remark about Eugene Ormandy apparently didn’t go over terribly well when he was working with the Curtis Orchestra back in 1984.) But he was a great conductor and he was not willing to compromise unless he absolutely had to. Maybe he was a little nutty about some things – and way off the mark with certain repertoire, but I think we could all provide a list of great musicians who were more than a tad eccentric and misread certain composers. At least he never brought a gun to rehearsal like Rodzinski did.

  • Pedro says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I have read somewhere that Noseda was one of his students. Can anyone confirm this?

  • Anders Lindgren says:

    There is another interview with Celibidache, in German. When asked why he never conducted any works by Mahler he answered: ” Wissen Sie, Mahler ist ja gar keine Komponist ! ” Celi was my favorite conductor when I was nine. I grew out of it.

  • Anders Lindgren says:

    There is another interview with Celibidache, in German. When asked why he never conducted any works by Mahler he answered: ” Wissen Sie, Mahler ist ja gar kein Komponist ! ” Celi was my favorite conductor when I was nine. I grew out of it.

    • Novagerio says:

      So, according to you, who ever dislikes Mahler is a damned imbecile?….What is it you actually grew out of?…

      • George says:

        He never said that anyone who hates Mahler is a “damned imbecile”. Those were your words. He simply noted that Celi didn’t consider Mahler a composer at all – an opinion that says more about Celi than Mahler.

    • James says:

      Toscaninni’s thoughts on Mahler are worth repeating here:

      ‘Mahler was not a genuine artist. His music possesses neither personality nor genius.
      It is the worst of imitation Leoncavallo, Tchiakowsky and Strauss without those
      composers’ genuine gifts. The music is not even commonplace, simply an endless
      series of trivialities’

      Can you beat it?

  • NYMike says:

    Celi wasn’t invited to conduct major orchestras here because his interminable rehearsals weren’t allowed by rehearsal time limits set forth in our orchestra contracts.

    • John Kelly says:

      True all over the place in Europe as well. He did some concerts with the LSO because they were self-governing and some players felt that some time with him would improve the orchestra. A lot of rehearsals (8-11 a concert I believe). They played with him in London and then went on a tour of Japan (probably somewhat lucrative). Some players had the chance to “opt out” and took that option. I can’t imagine Michael Davis (concertmaster) and Maurice Murphy (1st trumpet) were tremendously amused during those rehearsals……………….I knew them both slightly. After the Tippett in London he went in for sectional standing for applause and made the trumpets get up 3 times in a row. A long concert as the plaudits took quite a while…..

      I will say this – Celibidache cared about sound, colour and tone in the way that Stokowski did. But Celi conducted what he rehearsed (a la Mravinsky) and Stoki was more seat of the pants in performance. Celi made great effects in Ravel and Debussy, but I ultimately concluded that was 90% of his game……effects. His Bruckner was totally trance inducing, in a bad way, and I’d much rather hear Furtwangler in that music.

      Not a charlatan, not a poseur, not a nice man, quite the chauvinist (didn’t think women should be brass players) and when he did eventually return to conduct the Berlin Phil, the rehearsal footage had some classic close ups of the faces of some of the female players, displaying nothing but contempt………..not least because of his (rather uncalled for) “talking down” to the orchestra. Of course it was Karajan’s orchestra and he knew much better than HVK how Bruckner should sound. Worth a watch……………..Youtube……….Celibidache only said nice things about deceased conductors.

      But I still defy anyone to come up with a better Ritual Dances than he did on a magical evening in 1980 and the Curtis concert, particularly the Prelude and Liebestod was one to tell your grandchildren about.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      He also expressed great distaste for American orchestras: especially the sound of the strings, which played, according to him with: “an ugly, aggressive vibrato”. With a student orchestra, he could obtain what he wanted and have them hanging on his every word.

    • Anon says:

      True. He also said, once asked about the paradox, why he as a conductor who despised recordings, mostly worked with radio orchestras: “because they give me the highest number of rehearsals.”

  • Tommy says:

    How painful it is to watch this conductor in interviews. It goes on in this fashion every single time: Other conductors, musicians, composers and many more of those involved in music, are all ignorant and not up to the task. He reminds me of an immature human being with really bad individual qualities. I’d like to think that such manner would be impossible today, especially since a large crop of orchestras are filled with highly skilled women.

    Fortunately some of his recordings are superfine with i hint of individuality. Foremost the Brahms in Munich, some Bruckner with a special nod to the great Bruckner 7 with BPO. An impossible act without a Karajan orchestra I think… My admiration for this conductor is sinking with every such interview as this. The K-conductors are all much better.

  • Dennis says:

    Celi was a genius, and his Bruckner recordings are utterly transcendent. It says a lot about the state of today’s culture that most of the criticisms here seem to be that Celi spoke his mind and was not a PC milquetoast, as if those were marks against him.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      This rehearsal footage shows he could waste time talking, and be very offensive by any standards.



      I find my favorite Celibidache recordings sublime, but occasionally his tempi in fast movements were so slow that they eradicated temporal contrasts between movements.

      • Andreas B. says:

        I’m not sure these two short clips do his rehearsal process justice, though.

        Especially because this was an exceptionally charged and difficult situation for both sides, as the conductor and orchestra hadn’t worked together in decades and there was much emotional baggage in the way.
        I’m not saying Celibidache handles this particularly well, however (being an orchestra musician myself) I find the obviously counterproductive attitude of some of the players remarkable (eg. the female violinist in the 1st clip around 2:50)!

        There is a much longer video of this rehearsal where the tense atmosphere is quite obvious, but also where one can get a glimpse of the interesting ideas and concepts of the conductor:


        • Petros Linardos says:

          Andreas, thank you very much for the link. I was looking for it.

          I agree that Celibidache has some very interesting insights. But do they justify his continuous interrupting of the orchestra, endless chatter and condescending behavior? He spends a lot of time indulging in generalities that might be stimulating to a group of high school students but not to a professional musicians, let alone an elite orchestra.

          Do if his gestures communicate any of his thoughts? I get the impression that he beats time and then interrupts to explain what he wants, and embellishes his explanations with a good dose of insults. Am I wrong?

          One should judge by the results. I already stated that at his best Celibidache could be stunning. But what I notice in this rehearsal, along with things I’ve heard in other recorded rehearsals, is colossal waste of time in ego trips that do not justify his over-the-top demands for rehearsal time.

          I am not trying to convince you of my opinion. I am rather asking for your take on my questions and observations, since you are an orchestra musician and I am not.

        • Anon says:

          The “emotional baggage” as you state, was in this situation 99% on Celi’s shoulders. How many musicians had actually played with him last time he had conducted the orchestra 38 years ago? Any?
          It is sad to witness, how an old man of much experience and intellectual wisdom can with his heart not raise to the occasion and forgive the orchestra as an entity, for chosing HvK over him.
          He comes across as a bitter wounded old man, who wants to take revenge on the musicians who were his archenemie’s musicians. A real wise and great man would have risen above these reflexes of revenge and make this an occasion of healing and mutual music making, not one of narcisstic licking of his own old scars.

  • Martain Smith says:

    Great or not…what a self-righteous pr…..
    That said, I know a couple of “maestri” still on the circuit who are not far removed!

  • GG82 says:

    One of the most overrated conductors in history. His technique, as revered as it is by many conductors is just beating and consists basically in just giving upbeats; many of his recordings (Brahms’ symphonies, for example) are atrocious; his knowledge of philosophy was poor (Acher was shocked with Celi’s nonsense) and he did not understand Buddhism well enough; most of the time his tempi were ridiculous… I could only save his Bruckner symphonies.

    In Spain he is blindly revered as a music God, because the first ever conducting professor in Spain (some minor conductor called García Asensio) was a student of Celibidache in Italy in a couple of summers, and he believed in that philosophical nonsense. Everyone studied with this Spanish guy and continued the tradition of Celibidache’s beating.

    I can’t help but thinking of the letter Kleiber under a pseudonym (Toscanini) sent to the Spiegel about Celibidache.

    Telex von Toscanini (Himmel) an Celibidache (München)

    Lieber Sergiu!

    Wir haben im SPIEGEL von Dir gelesen. Du nervst, aber wir vergeben Dir. Es bleibt uns nichts anderes übrig: Vergeben gehört hier zum guten Ton. Kartoffelsack-Karli* erhob einige Einwände, aber als Kna und ich ihm gut zugeredet und ihm versichert haben, daß er musikalisch sei, hörte er auf zu lamentieren.

    Wilhelm behauptet jetzt plötzlich steif und fest, daß er Deinen Namen noch nie gehört hat. Papa Joseph, Wolfgang Amadeus, Ludwig, Johannes und Anton sagen, daß ihnen die zweiten Violinen auf der rechten Seite lieber und daß Deine Tempi alle falsch sind. Aber eigentlich kümmern sie sich einen Dreck drum. Hier oben darf man sich sowieso nicht um Dreck kümmern. Der Boss will es nicht.

    Ein alter Meister des Zen, der gleich nebenan wohnt, sagt, daß Du den Zen-Buddhismus total falsch verstanden hast. Bruno hat sich über Deine Bemerkungen halb krankgelacht. Ich habe den Verdacht, daß er Dein Urteil über mich und Karli insgeheim teilt. Vielleicht könntest Du zur Abwechslung mal auch was Gemeines über ihn sagen, er fühlt sich sonst so ausgeschlossen.

    Es tut mir leid, Dir das sagen zu müssen, aber hier oben sind alle ganz verrückt nach Herbert, ja die Dirigenten sind sogar ein klein bißchen eifersüchtig auf ihn. Wir können es kaum erwarten, ihn in etwa fünfzehn bis zwanzig Jahren hier herzlich willkommen zu heißen. Schade, daß Du dann nicht dabeisein kannst. Aber man sagt, daß dort, wo Du hinkommst, viel besser gekocht wird und daß die Orchester dort unten endlos proben. Sie machen sogar absichtlich kleine Fehler, damit Du sie bis in alle Ewigkeit korrigieren kannst.

    Ich bin sicher, daß Dir das gefallen wird, Sergiu. Hier oben lesen die Engel alles direkt von den Augen der Komponisten ab, wir Dirigenten brauchen nur zuzuhören. Nur Gott weiß, wie ich hierher gekommen bin.

    Viel Spaß wünscht Dir in aller Liebe

  • Steve P says:

    Like Celibidache recordings. Dislike most everything about him personally.

  • Ganymede says:

    For many years I had the privilege of following Celibidache with the Munich Philharmonic. I witnessed most of the rehearsals and experienced the atmosphere at first hand. His relationship with the orchestra members ranged from mutual admiration and generosity to respect and, in some cases, obviously some orchestra players who disagreed with him (as happens in every orchestra with any maestro). When he saw an effort by a player, a genuine will to engage then that was met by respect at the least, but also ranging to extreme warmth and generosity in several cases. When a player fell ill he was the first to respond to that and visit him/her in hospital (example: hist first flautist). He also helped players in financial difficulties. To many he was like a father figure.

    Musically, the long rehearsals were fascinating and helped develop a piece, helped the orchestra see the inner relationships within a piece, the inner causalities, which is what it ultimately was about (linking the end to the beginning, experiencing the ultimate unity within a piece). This causality was intimately related to the sound/colour, which is why he was so meticulous about the voicing, about creating transparency in the sound. He could rehearse for half an hour the exact timbre of cellos or violas to create unity in the sound, and phrasing was endlessly rehearsed too, instrument groups taking over themes from one another. This is partially reflected in the many outstanding recordings but was most obvious live of course. He was immensely dedicated to the detail and to my ears most performances nowadays simply sound sloppy, in part a result of the extreme pressures on orchestras and the maestros who fly in for a moment of glory and then leave again. There are some, too few, exceptions of course.

    Celibidache had a temperament which made him unpopular but a 100% genuine no-nonsense person who was interested in the music above all. He hated interference by media, administrators and others who saw music more as show business for money making.

    His son’s documentary (Celibidache’s Garden) is quite good to get an idea about him and I hope his son will eventually release more of the vast footage he took of his father in his final years.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Sounds great, if you have a magazine on your stand, seriously. But thanks for the insight.

    • I hope his son will do it (“you know what you have to do”, his father once told him – it’s in Celibidache’s biography from Klaus Umbach), but too much time seems passed away from the first releases. Maybe the commercial response was not as expected.
      But letting so much time pass away again will not help with it, in my opinion.

  • Jean says:

    Maybe he just had a bad day ? (Or the coffee was too bad)

  • harold braun says:

    Self important bullshit

  • Sue says:

    I have to say I enjoy reading all these differences of opinion; wonderful stuff!!

  • Pedro says:

    You can only be sujective when telling that a conductor is good or not. It depends on the way he, in your opinion, transmits the composer intentions and if you feel atuned to it or not. For my part and for instance, Karajan, Böhm, Kleiber, Bernstein, Celibidache, Jochum, Boulez, Maazel, Kubelik, Abbado and Sanderling were great conductors and Solti, Giulini, Davis and Sawallich were not. I’m speaking about main dead conductors that I have heard live and it’s only my personal opinion. Others will disagree and I accept that.

  • Robert Kenchington says:

    Interesting interview. Remarks that seemed horribly inappropriate in the classical music world in 1978 now have a frightening reality in 2017. In a world of podium peacocks like Dudamel, successive seasons of dumbed down Proms, a ‘yoof’ orientated Deutsche Grammophon and over-talkative self-appointed experts invading Radio 3 and BBC4 it could be argued that at least some of Celi’s pronouncements in 1978 were highly prophetic…

  • James says:

    Toscaninni’s thoughts on Mahler are worth repeating here:

    ‘Mahler was not a genuine artist. His music possesses neither personality nor genius.
    It is the worst of imitation Leoncavallo, Tchiakowsky and Strauss, without those composers’genuine gifts. The music is not even commonplace, but simply an endless series of triviallities.’

    Can you beat it?

    • Dan P. says:

      It’s really hard to be outraged at outrageous comments this late in the day since such comments are hardly new. During my student days in New York City I was lucky enough to hang out with the famous and the accomplished and I can assure you they ALL had strongly held opinions about certain of their contemporaries and forebears that were just as off the wall as Celibidache’s. They just didn’t feel any need to broadcast them. Nicolas Slonimsky” collected some of the more amusing ones in his “Lexicon of Musical Invective. One favorites was this – obviously written by a fellow New Yorker – taken from a 1907 concert review::

      “The Sea of Debussy does not call for many words of comment. The three parts of which it is composed are entitled From Dawn till Noon, Play of the Waves, and Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea, but as far as any pictorial suggestiveness is concerned, they might as well have been entitled On the Flatiron Building, Slumming in the Bowery, and A Glimpse of Chinatown During a Raid. Debussy’s music is the dreariest kind of rubbish. Does anybody for a moment doubt that Debussy would not write such chaotic, meaningless, cacophonous, ungrammatical stuff, if he could invent a melody?”

  • Hi folks~ Sorry for the slightly off-topic disturbance. But could anyone recommend a really kick-ass recording of Haydn Symphony No.44 in E minor? I recently heard a performance of this piece in Paris by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. That was the first time I heard this mind-blowing symphony and I was literally getting crazy about it. Consequently, I started to learn to enjoy Haydn’s music and collect his recordings.

    However, from the dozens of Haydn CDs I have listened to so far, I find out that his symphonies can sound extremely different under different conductors from different periods of times. I think I am more like a HIP fan, but maybe fancy even more HIP-inspired small ensembles with mostly modern instruments? I don’t know. I am not fundamentalist.

    I really appreciate your recommendation of a refreshing, well-played, nice sounding commercial recording of this piece. Thank you!

    • Dan P. says:

      This is one of my favorite Haydn Symphonies too (as it must have been one of Haydn’s since he requested that the slow movement be played at his funeral). If you like HIP performances (and think it’s the only way to go with Haydn’s earlier work) I would suggest either of two: (1) Trevor Pinnock conducting the English Concert (DG) or (2) Ton Koopman conducting the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (Philips). They are both, I think, out of print in the US, but Amazon.com has copies that are very inexpensive. We’re fortunate that Haydn’s Symphonies from the 1770s have been recorded quite a lot.

    • Tommy says:

      This one, where the first and last movement is refreshing, perhaps even exhilarating.


      They don’t achieve magic in the slow movement although beautifully played. HIP style but not exaggerated, slightly smaller than COE, 45-50 members ensemble with a long relation with Thomas Fey, their founder I believe. I have followed this ensemble and conductor (via CDs) for many years and I have liked what they released. Their Beethoven isn’t bad… 🙂

      Very unfortunate Thomas Fey was 2-3 years ago severely hit in the head in a domestic accident and he hasn’t recovered yet to a point where he can resume his conducting career. Between the lines doubts can be found (that he will never return). I don’t have first hand information on this. A tragedy I’m afraid !

    • Dan & Tommy, thank you so much for sharing your passion about this piece!

      I actually own a box set of the Sturm und Drang Symphonies by Pinnock since over 10 years. It was the second and last Haydn recording I bought before my recent (re-)discovery of his work. I think it says pretty much about how unimpressed I was about these CDs 😉 It was really a shame for me that I didn’t even notice the existence of No.44 in this set. I gave it a second try yesterday and still find it too “soft”, although definitely much better than many over-romanticized, dancing-elephant-like interpretations by older maestros. But that’s only my very personal perception.

      I will definitely try the Koopman as soon as I can find a proper copy.

      Coincidentally, I got a CD by Thomas Fey yesterday. He was also on my radar of searching for Haydn experts. Unfortunately, the CD doesn’t include the 44, but the 39 there is another piece I like very much. I had great expectation at first, was then slightly disappointed after a causal listening. For me it is a bit too “raw”, I wish they had played with more differentiated dynamics and sensitive phrasing. But once again, I am of course not entitled to judge the quality of these fine musicians. That’s only my own very superficial feeling.

      I also came across a CD of Haydn 44 by Roy Goodman and the Hannover Band. Sorry for my ignorance. I didn’t know these musicians before. But I must say their performance of this piece sounds nearly perfect to my ears. The Adagio is simply paradisaic. I am enchanted.

      I googled this conductor, only to find out that he is already retired, although he is “only” around the age of 65 I think. What a pity …

      • Dan P. says:

        You may like the Koopman a bit better as his group tends to be a bit “gruffer” than the ultra-civilized Pinnock. Both use very small ensembles – the type that the piece was written for. I haven’t heard the Goodman recording. You may like it, although I’ve found some of his recordings a bit slapdash, but that’s just my impression of the few recordings of his that I’ve heard. Good Luck.

      • Thank you, man! Have a nice weekend (・3・)

  • A Mac says:

    Watch him conduct Enescu Romanian Rhapsody No 1

  • Andrew Matthews says:

    I attended Celibidache’s concerts many times and a rehearsal. I heard him conduct Bruckner, Mozart, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Debussy, Dvorak, Brahms, and many others. He produced a sound unlike any other conductor. He was transcendental in his approach. Tempo was irrelevant. His sound world encapsulated the audience and took them beyond the notes in the score. His like will not be heard again.