Sergiu Celibidache

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7; Bach: Brandenburg Coincerto No. 3; Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin

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Sergiu Celibidache's reputation largely rests on his radio recordings, a medium he felt misrepresented his performances and lacked the spontaneity he felt was essential to understanding music. One might well agree with the conductor on hearing these murky and plodding historical reissues from Archipel of Celibidache's 1955 performance with the Sinfonica della RAI di Torino of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major and the 1957 performances with the Orchestra "Allesandro Scarlatti" della RAI d Napoli of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major and Maurice Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin: though the years have not been kind to these recordings, they sound as if they would have been quite disappointing in their own time. Whether it is due to the tape speed or Celibidache's actual tempos, the symphony comes off as inappropriately sluggish and overemphatic, and the tubby, bass-heavy sound adds to the impression of weightiness; the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 sounds scratchy and abrasive, with a serious lack of depth; and Le tombeau is compressed to the point of sounding boxy, squeaky, and at times even tinny. The expectations of audio reproduction were low in the 1950s, certainly nowhere near the high standards we demand nowadays, but one must make too many concessions to historical context to appreciate these inadequate recordings. Newcomers to Celibidache's recorded legacy are advised to try some of his better sounding reissues on EMI, if they must.

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