( ; June
) was a Romanian conductor.
Celibidache was born in Roman, Romania, and began his studies in music with the piano,
after which he studied music, philosophy and mathematics in
Bucharest, Romania and then in Paris.
One of the most
important influences in his life was his introduction to Martin Steinke
, who, being knowledgeable
, heavily affected
Celibidache's outlook for the rest of his life.
in Berlin and, from
1945 to 1952, he was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. He later worked with
radio orchestras in Stockholm, Stuttgart and Paris.
also worked in Britain in the late 1940s and 1950s, due partly to
the promotional efforts of the pianist Eileen Joyce
and her partner, an artists'
agent. Joyce said that Celibidache was the greatest conductor she
had ever worked with - "he was the only one who got inside my
1970 he was awarded Denmark's Sonning Award.
From 1979 until his
death he was music director of the Munich Philharmonic
. He regularly taught at
University in Germany
and in 1984 taught at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Teaching was a major focus throughout his
life and his courses were frequently open to all without fee.
Celibidache's approach to music-making is often described in terms
of what he did not do instead of what he did. For example, much has
been made of Celibidache's "refusal" to make recordings even though
almost all of his concert activity actually was recorded with many
released posthumously by major labels such as EMI
with consent of his family. Nevertheless,
Celibidache did pay little attention to making these recordings,
which he viewed merely as by-products of his orchestral
Celibidache's focus was instead on creating, during each concert,
the optimal conditions for a what he called a "transcendent
experience". Aspects of Zen Buddhism
such as ichi-go ichi-e
strongly influential on him. He believed that musical experiences
were extremely unlikely to ensue when listening to recorded music,
so he eschewed them. As a result, some of his concerts did provide
audiences with exceptional and sometimes life-altering experiences,
including, for example, a 1984 concert in Carnegie Hall by the Orchestra of the Curtis Institute that New York Times critic John Rockwell touted as the best of his
twenty-five years of concert-going.
Sergiu Celibidache giving a conducting
lesson at the Curtis Institute in 1984 to Curtis Student David
Celibidache was well known for his demands for extensive rehearsal
time with orchestras. An oft-mentioned feature of many of his
concerts, captured in the live recordings of them, is a slower
tempo than what is considered the norm, while, in fast passages,
his tempos often exceeded expectations. In Celibidache's own view,
however, criticism of a recording's tempo is irrelevant, as it is
not (and cannot be) a critique of the performance but rather of a
transcription of it, without the ambience of the moment – for him,
a key factor in any musical performance. As Celibidache explained,
the acoustic space in which one hears a concert directly affects
the likelihood of the emergence of his sought-after transcendent
experience. The acoustic space within which one hears a recording
of one of his performances, on the other hand, has no impact on the
performance, as it is impossible for the acoustic features of that
space to provide feedback to the musicians that might impel them
to, for example, play slower or faster.
That his recorded performances differ so widely from the majority
of other recordings has led them to be seen by some as collectors'
items rather than mainstream releases, 'one-offs' rather than
reference recordings. The reality is that the recordings and their
relationship to other recordings are the arena within which his
artistic importance is now judged, while the contributions he made
in the concert hall fade along with the memories of those who were
Notable releases have been his Munich performances of Beethoven
, Johannes Brahms
, Anton Bruckner
, Robert Schumann
, Johann Sebastian Bach
, Gabriel Fauré
and a series of live
performances with the London
and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony
One controversial incident during his tenure with the Munich
Philharmonic was a protracted legal battle to oust principal
trombonist Abbie Conant that lasted 12 years, with Conant
ultimately prevailing. Ms. Conant alleged sexism in an internet
published by her husband, William Osbourne. The
controversy is discussed in Malcolm
's book Blink
Celibidache died in La
Neuville-sur-Essonne, arrondissement Pithiviers near
Paris in 1996 at 84.