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Video: Celi calls Karajan, ‘an incredibly unmusical person’

We’ve just clicked on a 1979 interview with Sergiu Celibidache, the mystical Munich conductor, who – asked to discuss his colleagues – turns a withering tongue on his Berlin contemporary.

Herbert von Karajan, he says,  ’is the most tragic case of all conductors. As a young man he had potential, but he succumbed to a limitless vanity and arrived at a complete misunderstanding of music. He became an incredibly unmusical person.’

Asked why the public adored Karajan, he said: they love Coca-cola, too.



hat-tip: Patricia Kopatchinskaja

footnote: Celi was devoted to Wilhelm Furtwängler and briefly served at his replacement at the Berlin Phil while Furt was undergoing denazification. When Furt died, the orch chose the hyperactive Karajan over the absent Celi, who was attending somewhere to the purification of his soul.

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  1. Wasn’t there a clever reply to these comments by Carlos Kleiber? You should add it to this post, Norman.

    • what was the reply?

    • Sasha,

      This is probably what you’re referring to, a letter in Der Spiegel in May 1989:

      • Here’s the letter in English:

        Dear Sergiu!
        We have read you in the Spiegel. You get on our nerves, but we forgive you. We have no choice anyway: forgiveness is in style Up Here. Potato-sack Karli made some objection, but after Kna and I had a heart-to-heart with him, he stopped whining.

        Wilhelm now all of a sudden insists that he has never even heard of you. Papa Josef, Wolfgang Amadeus, Ludwig, Johannes, and Anton all prefer the second violins on the right and claim that your tempi are all wrong. But actually, they don’t really give a damn about it. Up here, we are not supposed to care a damn about anything. The Boss does not allow it.

        An old Zen master who lives next door says you got it all wrong about Zen Buddhism. Bruno is totally cracked up by your comments. I have the suspicion that he secretly shares your views about me and Karli. Maybe you could say something mean about him for a change; otherwise, he feels so left out.

        I hate to break it to you, but everybody up here is totally crazy about Herbert. In fact, the other conductors are a little jealous of him. We can’t wait to welcome him up here in fifteen or twenty years. Too bad you can’t be with us then.

        But people say that where you will go the cuisine is much better, and the orchestras down there never stop rehearsing. They even make little mistakes on purpose, so that you have a chance to correct them for all eternity.

        I’m sure you will like that, Sergiu. Up here, the angels read the composers’ minds. We conductors only have to listen. Only God knows why I’m here.

        Have lots of fun,

        In old friendship,

        • I was not aware of this. How amazing by Kleiber, who hardly ever faced the press. Thank You for the post!

        • Don Ciccio says:

          Of course, there is more to Carlos Kleiber vs. Celi than what this letter seems to suggests. For example, CK was often seen at Celi’s concerts at Gasteig. And when Celi got sick, CK was among the first to wish him to get healthy fast.

          On the other hand, while Celi had some reservations about CK , he did invite repeatedly CK to conduct the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra when he was director (by the time Celi took over the Munich Philharmonic CK’s appearences were becoming increasingly rare.)

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Actually I think Kleiber never conducted the RSO Stuttgart in concert. He just did the two rehearsals/broadcasts of Freischütz and Fledermaus (with studio audience) that are preserved for posterity – but that was before SC became MD there.

          • Don Ciccio says:

            There’s rehearsal footage with Carlos Kleiber conducting Wagner with the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra in 1972. This was definitely during Celi’s tenure:

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Not necessarily. SC just came in in 1972 so that doesn’t mean he invited CK for this production – whatever it is. It still doesn’t mean he conducted them in concert either. Maybe it was just a radio recording. I will see if I can find out what this is.

      • The Spiegel article is a response to an article about Celibidache they ran two issues earlier in which he offers some nasty evaluations of his peers. Zum Beispiel:

        Karajan? “Schrecklich. Entweder ist er ein guter Geschäftsmann, oder er kann nicht hören.” Hans Knappertsbusch – “ein Skandal”, “Unmusik bis dorthinaus”. Arturo Toscanini – “eine reine Notenfabrik”. Theodor W. Adorno – “der größte Schwätzer der Weltgeschichte”. Karl Böhm – ein “Kartoffelsack”, dirigierte “noch keinen einzigen Takt Musik in seinem Leben”.

        Leonard Bernstein und Zubin Mehta “kommen in meiner Welt nicht vor”. Riccardo Muti ist zwar “begabt, aber ein enormer Ignorant”. Und Mutis Landsmann Claudio Abbado? “Ein völlig unbegabter Mensch. Eine Qual. Drei Wochen ohne Essen würde ich überleben. Drei Stunden in seinem Konzert – Herzinfarkt.”

        The whole thing can be read here:


        PS: The “Kleiber” response to this was said to have been written in “heavenly” English and came with a handy decoding table of which conductors he was referring to. The PDF is here:

  2. Last tango says:

    Che peccato… amo coca cola anche Karajan, e anche i tempi lenti di Celibidache, ma in questo ordine…..

  3. What is the point of dredging up a 40 year old interview from a conductor almost forgotten today. What makes Celibidache’s opinion worth considering ? Do you really think you will convince anyone that the conductor who was one of the most dominating forces in Music in central Europe was a fraud ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Celibidache “forgotten”? You must be joking. In my orchestra’s lounge, Celibidache’s name is mentioned twice as often as Karajan’s, at least. This is not a slight on HVK, to be sure….but Celibidache is absolutely revered by orchestral musicians the world over.

      • Celibidache was a pretty important conductor, and not forgotten! I agree with Celibidache, that Karajan’s enormous talent was killed by his own vanity. I mean, Celibidache’s latter-day slowness of tempi always had purpose, intensity, direction, and was always beautiful to hear. Karajan in his last days was stiff and weird–beautiful but cold, even sad. Celibidache exuded exultation–and expressed exaltation. Extraordinary!

        • Fabio Fabrici says:

          Celi’s vanity was not less than Karajan’s, only for the last years of his life maybe he became a bit more humble, less testosteron, more wisdom, a bit of both, who knows. They were just very different characters.
          Karajan was the best business man among the conductors, Celi was the best philosopher.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            I don’t think SC was much of a “philosopher”. He kept going on and on and on and on and on about Zen buddhism and “epiphenomena” and about how really, really, really great he was and how really, really, really bad everyone else was. I have been in a few of his rehearsals and seminars and while the actual rehearsing of the orchestra was outstanding and showed that he was a superb craftsman, his constant pseudo-philosophical babbling was rather sad. His demeanor and constant demeaning of his colleagues were about as un-Zen as it can get. Zen is about being and doing, not constantly telling everyone how great one is and how awful everyone else is.
            In the first years of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, he and Bernstein conducted the international student orchestra. Bernstein came in first and did some phenomenal work with the young musicians (excerpts of him rehearsing Le Sacre can be seen on Youtube), then SC came in and told everyone how they had just been taught everything all the wrong way and how much work there was ahead of him to undo all that and teach them how to make music. He really was a fairly small, envious and mischievous character.
            I heard the Münchner Philharmoniker under him fairly often in these years. The orchestra sounded fabulous and he was able to sustain the long musical lines through his usually rather slow tempi so the concerts were always fascinating listening experiences. But they were also musically rather one-dimensional. It was all about the round, luminous, very beautiful and full sound he produced with the orchestra. Other aspects of the music he conducted, the architecture of the pieces, the dramatic arch, all that pretty much went of the window.
            Ironically, the MP under SC sounded very similar to the BP under HvK except that the latter had a much bigger dynamic range. But the basic round and full sound they got from their orchestras was actually very similar, not surprisingly since both’ worked by allowing that sound to develop naturally in a flowing way in the room rather than straitjacket it.
            The only real difference sound-wise was that SC rarely allowed the brass to play louder than a rich and mellow F while HvK occasionally extended the dynamics to extremes which one thought would bring the roof down. But he could also make the orchestra play incredibly quiet but still with substance in the sound.
            I never thought SC’s super-slow tempi brought any “special insights” though. I think he just did that to set himself apart from other conductors. Unlike some conductors like Giulini who gradually developed towards their slower later year tempi, that was something SC just came up with at some point in the mid-late 70s or so. So while his knowledge of the orchestra and ability to draw a highly refined and beautiful sound from it were matched by few, I don’t think SC was musically a really significant conductor.
            So the two actually had a whole lot more in common than met the eye (and ear) at first. Both were highly gifted conductors with a particular knack for drawing refined and beautiful sound from orchestras, and both struggled to find and define their roles on the podium in an age which worshiped the “great” conductor. Both catered to that expectation shamelessly, in their different ways. Only HvK got his act together and then played the role he had defined for himself much earlier and much more successfully than SC. The latter really was a tragic figure, his own worst enemy.

            PS – HvK was not chosen over SC as principal conductor of the BP. By that time, SC had long fallen out with the orchestra. Quite a few orchestra members regretted that and would have chosen him over HvK, but he wasn’t even an option anymore as his head had grown bigger than he could handle so his behavior was often erratic and he regularly antagonized and insulted musicians. So while HvK mounted Furtwängler’s podium, SC descended into the provincial orchestra scene for the next two decades or so until he had figured out his guru thing and did that act successfully.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            Great insightful reply Mr. Schaffer. I knew Celi a bit beyond the stage, had spoken with him repeatedly backstage, and know from that a different, caring and empathetic person, different than the harsh and merciless image he gave himself publicly. His rehearsals were excellent when it came to shaping orchestral music, from the tiniest handcrafting detail to the big musical structure.
            Where he sucked in my opinion was in his teachings, where he couldn’t get over his narcissistic ego and couldn’t let other plants grow next to himself. He was in a way the opposite of a teacher, I always felt a degree of sophistic “sado-masochism” in the relation between his pupils and the “big master”.

            In the end I think both he and Karajan were very lonely people, HvK maybe being a little lonelier than Celi. It was also the toll of playing the role of a conducting titan in the age of the conducting titans. That age is over.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            P.S. and you are right about his break with the BPhO. At the moment the orchestra had to choose a successor he had played his cards badly and the table cloth was cut with too many in the orchestra over his hot tempered approach to problems he saw.
            Also HvK was the more versatile and universal conductor – also very fluent in opera, unlike Celi – so somewhat the logical choice.
            But the trauma for Celi was still there, he was shattered after the hefty affair he and the orchestra had enjoyed right after Borchard’s fateful death and the subsequent cooling off after Furtwängler was back at the helm.
            It hurts to see him as an old – supposedly wise – man 40 years later belittling and demeaning the BPhO instead of taking the high road of forgiveness, particularly since almost none of the players from 1954 were still in the orchestra in 1992. It shows his flaws, his narcissistic ego that could not forgive.

  4. Alexander Hall says:

    Let nobody suppose for one moment that artists and musicians are entirely free from those human frailties best summed up in the words “vanity” and “professional jealousy”. One could write an entire book about the waspish and indeed deliberately offensive comments peddled by conductors and soloists to all too willing hack journalists about their colleagues in the profession. Unfortunately, Kenneth Williams already hit upon the best possible title for such a work when he published his “Acid Drops”.

  5. Mark Barrett says:

    I am inclined towards Alexander’s view with regard to waspishness and vanity. As we have said in oher contexts here, artists are human beings, with all the frailties, weaknesses and strengths that go with all of us. I think (correct me if I am wrong) Klemperer had things to say on one or two occasions abut HvK too. And others about others! As I write this I am currently listening to (and watching) the concert that Celibidache gave with Michelangeli and the LSO of Ravel’s Piano Concerto and, in spite of my own comments elsewhere (in C’s terms, not the way to experience the original event!) I am relishing the whole thing, fortifying my memories of being there at the time. However, entitled as he is to an opinion, I think “Hasbeen” above is possibly describing an element of himself if he is prepared to (a) set aside any validity of opinions held by Celibidache and, in the same sentence, (b) provide us with such a naively uncritical opinion of HvK just because “was one of the most dominating forces in Music in central Europe”. And your point is, Hasbeen? From what position do you make such an assertion?

  6. whenever Karajan’s name is mentioned, I notice that it provokes a lot of discussion.
    I suppose he was attracted to soloists who were similarly polarizing eg. Gould, Kremer, Weissenberg

  7. Istvan Horthy says:

    I love nearly everything Celibidache did: he had a way of lighting up music from within and to see him in action rehearsing the Fauré Requiem with the LSO is an astonishing revelation about the piece and his approach to music.

    I believe he was deeply hurt at being passed over for Karajan by the Berlin orchestra and never entirely got over the slight.

  8. Another notorious video of Celibidache:

    • Mark Barrett says:

      And this is notorious why? I seem to remember Beecham (in a recording of a rehearsal) shouting just as loudly “Where are the percussion!!?” among other things…. try again William, you haven’t convinced me.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        I agree. That’s not notorious, that’s a passionate expecting passion and then disappointed that the passion was not mirrored by “Viola”, his lover. :)

  9. Fabio Fabrici says:

    It’s essential to see Celi’s comments about Karajan in the context of their common history. Celi was bitter and never really overcame his trauma, to be after most intense years with the Berlin Phil not considered for the Chief conductor position after Furtwängler’s death.
    Celi held a grudge against Karajan and also the Berlin Phil, he also never returned, except for that one concert in the early 1990s – after almost 40 years – for a Bruckner 7. Where he patronized and humiliated the orchestra with lengthy sermons about their mediocrity and vanity. Some of this can be seen in the excellent documentary available on DVD from the rehearsals.

  10. Hasbeen says:

    I guess my naive assertion that HvK was ‘one of the most dominating forces in central Europe’ is justified by the fact he held important posts in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Salzburg and Milano ! I don’t believe I gave an ‘opinion’.

    • Mark Barrett says:

      In reply to Hasbeen, there are some interesting contributions here about these two conductors which stimulate the discussion but I venture to suggest that to say that Celibidache is ‘almost forgotten’ and that his opinions might not be worth considering are not, in themselves, anything other than opinions. HvK held these posts but they do not tell me anything about the interpretative gifts of either conductor.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        That’s true, Mark – but do you really think SC’s opinions about his colleagues are actually ‘worth considering”? In the interview, he says (or confirms to the interviewer that he said) about Toscanini and Furtwängler that they “hardly knew anything about music” and that Böhm “never conducted a single note of music in his entire life”. So what do you make of these “opinions”?

        • Celibidache was a great musician, slightly megalomaniacal I think he is the greatest, but his opinions on Furtwängler, Böhm, Bernstein, Solti, Muti, and Karajan are surely overstated, hyperbolic, provocative. About Toscanini being ignorant–well I just LOVE that, as I detest Toscanini in every way.

          • Oh yes, let’s open a Toscanini debate! That would be yet more fun!

          • Rgiarola says:


            Let’s include the wind section of London SO and Maazel as part of SC “opinions”. I agree with you. He was just intending to be provocative and polemical and as we can see, it is still working until now.

        • Mark Barrett says:

          I do take your point, Michael; in a Facebook post, I said that the roster of past artists is enriched by these difficult, mercurial, frustrating and complex inidividuals who, as human beings, are not exempt from having flaws. God forbid if we end up with the conductorial equivalent of the corporate archtype! SC is indeed on very difficult ground in some of the assertions he comes up with. However I do not agree with the Man who Once Was (Mr Hasbeen above!) who considers Celibidache unworthy of our conideration for all sorts of other reasons that made him and his performances so compelling. His son’s film attempts to get behind the man – watching it may still raise questions but I firmly believe the milieu of music and the world in general is fortunate to have had Celbidache make his impact on it.

        • ruben greenberg says:

          I find your analysis dazzling. I often heard this conductor rehearse the French Orchestre National and my impressions were identical to yours. He was great with sound, dynamics and shaping the music, but there was something static and ” control-freaky” about his music-making. His philosophising and mesmerising effect on musicians smacked of the art of the guru of a sect. What is undeniable though is the fact that every concert felt like a major event and that he could transform an orchestra beyond recognition. Perhaps this is why he may have preferred second-division orchestras to the top ones.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Maybe not, but HvK imposed his vision of music making on an awful lot of people in Europe and beyond. Good conductor or not, his influence can not be underestimated.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          What do you mean by “HvK imposed his vision of music making on an awful lot of people in Europe and beyond”? He was obviously very present in all media, but whether or not people accept or reject his ways of making music is up to them, isn’t it? He could he “impose” that on anyone?

        • Mark Barrett says:

          In reply to Theodore: I sincerely hope that, just because HvK (did indeed) impose his vision of music, we did not all fall for that approach hook, line and sinker. In my opinion, I don’t think we did, I am thankful to say. I was pretty close to events immediately following HvK’s death, my hotel room at Anif (where I was attending a formative meeting of the new (and as yet un-named) Sony Classical) looking out over the flower-bedecked grave in the church yard. So intense were the attempts to have a handle on elements of his legacy (in particualr the Telemondial material) that, barely had the flowers been placed on the grave, there were conversations around the legacy taking place, at the centre of which were the Telemondial recordings for planned release on Laser disc. All I can say is that, from that moment on, I felt that the HvK influence, marketed potently during his lifetime, went very quickly on the wane as I think Norman will bear out, in inverse proportions to the extraordinary efforts made to prepare them for market. Few, if any, were ever sold (certainly in the Laser format!). And I felt that, from that moment, with HvK in the grave for more than three days (see the NYT quote which follows!), no one was much interested in HvK for quite a while. If I am permitted, I think this piece by Will Crutchfield from the New York Times in 1993 makes a constructive contribution to this discussion – as well as a read of the Maestro Myth! –

  11. This man is surely one of the most boring conductors I have ever seen and is hardly in a position to comment on others. Has anyone heard him conduct Bruckner ? He makes Klemperer look like Speedy Gonzales.

  12. Istvan Horthy says:

    Arturo [Toscanini] could be extremely vitriolic about other conductors. In his correspondence, he speaks of the “obscenity” of Knappertsbusch’s “Tannhäuser”; he refers to “the inanity of the man with the pear-shaped head” ([Furtwängler] and, writing to Stokowski, “You vitriolized the Franck symphony. Never in all my long life have I heard such a brutal, obscene performance even from you.” Bruno Walter was “a sentimental old fool.” So Carlos Kleiber’s choice of his name as the author of his cod letter was not really appropriate.

  13. Michael Hurshell says:

    I recall a radio Interview, or rather a tribute (to HvK after his death) with many interview excerpts, in which Aurèle Nicolet was being asked about his opinion of Celebidache. He said that he had told him, after the orchestra chose Karajan, to his face: “You know, Celi, Karajan is much better at rehearsing than you are.” I think there are various reasons why SC had no chance when WF died, but more pertinent is why he was conducting in Berlin at all: During his tenure, all the famous conductors had fled or were awaiting de-Nazification hearings,,,

    • A pertinent observation. All the more so because Celi comes from a gypsy family. How did he avoid the camps?

      • Mark Barrett says:

        by which you mean, William?

        • Celibidache’s gypsy heritage is fairly well-known. In an interview, Barenboim once said it represented both the best and worst sides of his character and music-making. (I think the interview was in French. I can’t find it.) Here is a listing of famous gypsies that includes Celi:

          He also had a Greek heritage and spoke Greek, but I don’t know the details. Romania was allied with Nazi Germany and Celi was a Romanian. Perhaps that helps explain why he wasn’t arrested as a gypsy.

          In rehearsals with the Munich Phil Celi would sometimes use language and a commando style of speaking so reminiscent of that era that the musicians were shocked. In any case, he did not seem to have internal conflicts with being in Berlin during the war. He was an opportunistic person and had a self-contradictory nature.

          He presented himself as a sort of Guru to his musicians and students and they still form a fanatic cult around him. Forgive me if I avoid superficial debate with them.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        I don’t think he came from a gypsy family. His father was a cavalry office or something like that. In those days, such posts were rarely held by ethnic minorities, especially not in places like Romania. I think his father had some Greek background – another parallel to HvK…

      • I have wanted to ask this for a long time. What was Celi doing in Berlin in 1944 studying phlosophy? Why
        would anyone who wanted to made that trip at that time? He was obviously untainted by any hint of Nazism, which I find rather odd under the circumstances.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          From his lips, I heard him say that he was playing cocktail piano in a bar to make ends meet as he studied whatever (music, philosophy, etc.). (the whatever is my word, not SC’s LOL). Apparently he arrived in Berlin in the late 1930s. I would welcome more info on his life before 1945.

          • I have always been amazed that in no interviews I have seen or heard of was he asked the obvious question: what was a person of Gypsy descent doing voluntarily moving to Berlin in 1939? (or whatever year it was-I thought it was later). It turned out to be a spectacular career move once the war was over, but it seems reckless and brazenly over confident to think he could get away with that-unless he was somehow protected by and cooperating with the Nazis, which I have never heard anyone suggest was the case. I do not know when his interest in Zen began, but Zen Buddhism was admired by a number of prominent Nazis, probably for its connection with samurai culture. (this makes its adoption by the beatniks as some sort anti-authoritarian spiritual path all the more ironic-Zen culture is extremely rigid and authoritarian, which would appeal to both the Nazis and Celibidache.).

            Celi was, as William Osborne said, a thoroughly self- contradictory character, and that is part of why he is fascinating. To suffer from such overwhelming petty jealousy ,to be an unapologetic bigot, and to be so overtly narcissistic, and then to talk endlessly about “sublimating the ego” displays a brazen lack of self-awareness.

            And I really think that some information on his wartime Berlin years beyond the little bit we have all heard would be very interesting-it might give us insight into how he went from writing a dissertation to Josquin de Prez to a Conductor and leader of a personality cult.

          • Is it possible that the BPO wanted Celibidache because he was as different (at that time) from the Germanic idea of the conductor as exemplified by Furtwängler or Von Hausegger or Heger or any of those men. A young Romanian, handsome, charismatic, a serious music student–it was as unusual a pick as the rigid German system (mentality) could allow.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            He had nowhere to go, he was basically trapped in Berlin during the war. As a Romanian without any means he could go home and be drafted immediately or stay where he was. He was thankful to the Berliners who helped him – a “dirty Romanian” as he said about himself in that time – to survive and study music as a a major and a bit of philosophy on the side as well.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            and the Gypsy decent thing: I don’t think he is purely of “Gypsy” decent, maybe a bit of “Gypsy” blood in his family tree, but not a pure “Gypsy” heritage that would endanger him under the racist laws of the Nazis.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      That explains why he got a chance to conduct the orchestra right after the war, but that’s not the reason he continued to be a frequent guest after the “big names” had been cleared or come back to Germany. His work with the orchestra was very successful, the audience loved him, he got great reviews and critics’ awards and stuff like that. Just days before WF died, he got a high decoration from the German government for his role in rebuilding music life in Germany after the war. Unfortunately, at exactly the same time, literally days before WF died, he also had a major falling out with the orchestra. There was some kind of eclat during rehearsals for Brahms EDR, I forgot what it was about but it apparently it was pretty messy and above all, it turned out to be really bad timing…

  14. jim sillan says:

    i call celibidache a monstrous control freak, who drained every last ounce of spontaneity from music

  15. Novagerio says:

    He didn’t say Karajan was a fraud. He said “it was a tragic case” – wich in Celi’s world is something worth worring about, as with Muti.

  16. Novagerio says:

    By the way, has anybody mentioned that Celi would for decades give away enormous sums of his equally enormous fees in order to improve the horrendously unhuman conditions of many rumanian orphanages? And that he would seat with students wether it was conductors or a string quartet or a wind quintet until 5am for decades without ever asking for money? And by the way, I still want to hear a podium “magician” today who can produce such incredibly sensuous orchestral sounds in Ravel or sustain those gigantic pillars of symphonic architecture in Bruckner (without the aid of a record producer) as Celi could, cos when you heard them Live you would feel transcendented beyond reality and feel as a part of the performance – whenever you heard it mechanically reproduced from something as banal as your own radio at home, the effect was, needlesss to say, to slow; hence the fact that Celi boycotted the record industry and attacked for instance Karajan for exploding the record industry in the aim of building a sort of industrial subculture. And I love Karajan aswell by the way, as much as I love Furtwängler and Stokowski and Klemperer and Toscanini and Karajan and Bernstein (PS: I don’t love Böhm the same way!)

    • Bravo, Novagerio. I think that does say much for Celibidache! Thank you for reminding us about his generosity of spirit.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        It’s nice to hear that Celibidache apparently supported Romanian orphans, but we don’t really know how “enormous” those sums were. I do remember that he did the concert in 1992 when he returned to work with the Berliner Philharmoniker as a benefit concert for just that cause. But none of that tells us anything about his musical qualities. Karajan could be quite generous, too, with money and with support for young singers and conductors, he had his personal doctors look after members of the BP when they were ill, nice stuff like that. But that doesn’t tell us much about his musical qualities either.
        It is kind of interesting to know some things about who these famous conductors were, what kind of personalities they were, what they did when they weren’t on the podium – but some of the replies here show that Celibidache had a personality cult going on around himself, just like Karajan, just of a different kind. Another interesting parallel between those two personalities who many see as diametrically different but who really had much more in common as musicians and as men than meets the eye at first.

  17. Novagerio says:

    Well, sorry but who ever doubts the “musical qualities” of such titans needs to see an audiologist very urgently.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Karajan and Celibidache weren’t “titans”. They were conductors.

      They were extraordinarily good conductors who both also had personality cults going on around them in an age when that was very common. But those personality cults had very little if anything to do with their actual musical qualities.

      If you buy into such a personality cult with blind adulation, that has nothing to do with actually appreciating those musical qualities either. You will find that myself and others who have witnessed both in action have discussed those musical qualities in at least some depth on this page. Blind idol worship is not part of that kind of critical appreciation.

  18. Novagerio says:

    I’m personally only concerned about the beauty of sound they created. They were “titans” in a sense like Furtwängler and Toscanini, and Walter and Klemperer and Stokowski and Bernstein also were titans. We will never see their equal again. Thank goodness for their talents that enriched our lifes, despite their eventual flaws and ups-and-down like with any human being.

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