Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996) is the focus of this
thought-provoking documentary and portrait by
Jan Schmidt-Garre, dating from 1991 and released on DVD
by the ARTHAUS MUSIK label in 2009. The title “Celibidache:
You Don’t Do Anything, You Let It Evolve,” is an apt one, given
Celibidache’s penchant for philosophizing, and not just about

In addition to Music, Celibidache studied Mathematics and
Philosophy while in Berlin during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and
he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic from 1945 to 1952. At that
time, Maestro Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) was prohibited
from conducting in post-World War II Germany. Starting in 1979,
Celibidache became director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra,
and held that post until his death. Although he also continued to
guest conduct orchestras in many different countries over the
years, this was his only major directorial post since his tenure
with the Berlin Philharmonic.

This in-depth film provides an intimate view of Celibidache’s
rehearsal processes and opinions, on a variety of subjects.
As a result, I came away from this DVD feeling as though I had
spent time with him. In my experience, other film makers haven’t
been able to capture their subjects to this degree. There is
footage of Celibidache conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in a
performance of Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture,” as well as
coaching a young string quartet. Rehearsals are also featured
with the Munich Philharmonic preparing Bruckner’s “Mass in F
Minor,” Verdi’s “Overture to La Forza del Destino” and the
Scherzo from Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony.”

Celibidache famously eschewed recordings in general,
believing that the creation of music was spontaneous,
existing in the “here and now.” Of course, many recordings
are available of his live performances and unfortunately,
people may judge his music making by comparing these
recordings with those of his colleagues. Along with various
other factors, he felt that the actual performance venue
could determine his choice of a tempo for that performance.
When evaluating his live performances based solely upon
recordings, his tempi could often seem to be very slow;
however, many who were fortunate enough to experience
his concerts “in the flesh,” felt that they were the
greatest musical experiences of their lives.

As mentioned above, this film provides a very intimate
portrait of this multifaceted genius in a variety of situations
and circumstances. One of the things that makes this a
unique viewing experience is the film making skill of director
Jan Schmidt-Garre (1962 – ), which encourages the viewer to
consider the subject at hand in a different context than the
standard “documentary” approach. For these reasons, this
100-minute film is very important. As I noted above, based upon
my viewing experiences, rarely has a musician been so thoroughly
portrayed in such depth, and I highly recommend this DVD.