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During his lifetime, Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) was overshadowed by Herbert von Karajan and Georg Solti, but his posthumous reputation has grown while interest in more famous contemporaries has fallen. These two DVDs underline the shift.

Celibidache had a deeper philosophy of life: he thought more about music, was less interested in worldly wealth and placed greater emphasis on sharing his knowledge. Busé’s film probes Celibidache’s background, career and ideas, drawing on documentary evidence as well as interviews with family, students and admirers, including Daniel Barenboim. It is the best attempt yet to explain who this mysterious, uncompromising, guru-like figure was, and why he had such an influence on those with whom he came into contact.

Catapulted in 1945 from obscurity to the principal conductorship of the Berlin Philharmonic, “Celi” was later passed over in favour of Karajan, and spent much of his time thereafter conducting radio orchestras – the only ones that would put up with his stubbornness and extravagant rehearsal demands.

Whereas Schmidt-Garre focuses exclusively on the conductor in his dotage, with footage from a single rehearsal sequence in 1991, Busé’s documentary is sprinkled with clips from all periods of Celi’s life, capturing his phenomenal knowledge, charisma and obsession with musical detail. It also communicates the belief, central to Celi’s nomadic life and work, that music is about the relationship between end and beginning, now and eternity. “At the end I am where I was at the start, but at the same time I have undergone a transformation.”

Sergiu Celibidache

Firebrand and philosopher

A film by Norbert Busé

(Arthaus Musik)

Celibidache rehearses

Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony

Directed by Jan Schmidt-Garre

(Arthaus Musik)

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