When Sergiu Celibidache returned to conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker in March 1992, it was his first appearance with the orchestra in nearly four decades. He had gotten his start with them in 1945, just after the end of the war—but though he was brilliant, he was unorthodox and uncompromising, and he often butted heads with musicians and colleagues. In 1954 the orchestra chose Herbert von Karajan to take over conducting duties, and Celibidache felt snubbed, vowing never again to conduct the ensemble. It was only a personal invitation from Richard von Weizsäcker, the President of Germany, that convinced him to return.
Celibidache, who died in 1996, left behind an unquestionable legacy as one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century, and as arguably the greatest Brucknerian of all time. It is fitting, then, that for this triumphant reunion with the Berliner Philharmoniker, he chose to conduct Bruckner’s monumental Seventh Symphony—a work that won the eccentric Bruckner the widespread acclaim he had always craved in his lifetime. The result was an astonishing, instant-classic performance brimming with history (documented in more detail in this behind-the-scenes documentary!) that a German reviewer called “one of the truly great moments in music."
Jan Philipp Gloger (stage director), Christian Thielemann (conductor) – With Ricarda Merbeth (Senta) and Franz-Josef Selig (Daland) – Bayreuth Festival
A concert for New York with the New York Philharmonic
A film by Wolfgang Becker