Celibidache, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Bruckner: A historical, superlative concert

The Berlin Philharmonic performs Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E major (WAB 107) under conductor Sergiu Celibidache in the Konzerthaus Berlin, in the spring of 1992: an extraordinary concert with a legendary lineup. Rehearsals for the concert were documented in the film ‘The Triumphant Return’ (dir. Wolfgang Becker, 1992).

Following the war, the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1922 to 1945, Wilhelm Furtwängler, was required to submit to the denazification process. The young Sergiu Celibidache thereby became the top orchestra’s interim conductor, from 1945 until 1952. Following that, Furtwängler was once again on the podium. In 1954 the Philharmonic selected not the predestined Celibidache to be Furtwängler’s official successor – but rather Herbert von Karajan. Sergiu Celibidache was so incensed by being passed over that he vowed to never again conduct the famous orchestra. It took 38 years before a collaboration could once again take place: the concert of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 happened only at the instigation of the German president at the time, Richard von Weizsäcker. In the intervening years, Celibidache had become an internationally sought-after conductor.

Anton Bruckner’s seventh symphony premiered in 1884. The second movement is a piece of funereal music that Bruckner composed in 1883 in response to the death of Richard Wagner. In an homage to Wagner, Bruckner utilized the so-called ‘Wagner tuba’ for the first time, which Wagner had created for his own ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ cycle.

Despite its length and the sprawling development of its thematic arcs, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 remains to this day one of his most regularly performed works, played in concert houses around the globe.

00:20 Allegro moderato
28:09 Adagio
58:48 Scherzo
1:11:15 Finale

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