At the end of last year, I wrote about the audite release of an extensive collection of archival recordings of Sergiu Celibidache’s early work as a conductor in Berlin between 1945 and 1957. The sources for these recordings all came from the Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv (German radio archive). It thus seemed appropriate for me to supplement my observations with an earlier audite release of three CDs made from the original tapes of the RIAS archive. (The hyperlink explains the abbreviation and its significant role in reinvigorating the culture of serious music in Berlin following the Second World War.) There are only nine sessions in this collection, two of which are studio recordings with the remainder performed live before an audience.
While this is a much smaller collection than the one taken from the Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, it is far more adventurous. The earliest work is Luigi Cherubini’s overture for his 1803 opera Anacréon ou L’amour fugitive. The chronology then leaps ahead to Ferruccio Busoni’s Opus 35a D major violin concerto, completed in 1897. Everything else is twentieth century, with a generous amount of attention (three compositions all recorded during the live recording made on October 7, 1957) of the work of Celibidache’s teacher, Heinz Tiessen. These include his second symphony (Opus 17) and two suites, one from incidental music for William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the other from Tiessen’s Salambo ballet.
As was the case with the Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, there is also an “American presence,” possibly in recognition of RIAS being located in the American Sector of divided Berlin. This includes a second live recording of Aaron Copland’s suite of the music he composed for Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring;” and a complete performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with pianist Gerhard Puchelt. I included that “complete” adjective because this piece is often performed with cuts, many of which are specified explicitly in the score. This account is as spirited as it is thorough. We may not associate Celibidache with jazzy rhetoric; but, where Gershwin is concerned, he definitely “got it.”
While this collection may be less popular than the larger set of many more familiar selections compiled from Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv sources, it definitely presents unique aspects of Celibidache’s personal aesthetic, which should not be neglected by those interested in his career as a conductor.