Day 19: Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (Celibidache)

My “office” this morning is another favorite local restaurant: Mr. Burger.

The food isn’t fancy. It’s just well made, delicious, and hearty.

It’s the people that make it worth visiting.

Mr. Burger is like the TV show Cheers. Everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

It’s the ideal spot for…

This morning, I’m listening to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), nicknamed “Romantic,” interpreted by the Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996).

According to one web site, his name is pronounced: SER-zhoo Chay-lee-bee-DAH-ke.

I’ll have to take their word for it.

If you want to read the background info on Maestro Celibidache (and I really think you should), or read my opinion of his interpretation of Bruckner’s Third, visit Day 13.

If not, read on…

You know how this works.

First, the objective stuff.

Then, my opinion of the performance and box set and liner notes, etc.

The objective stuff:

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104), composed 1873-1874
Sergiu Celibidacheconducts
Celibidache used the “ed. Haas,” according to the liner notes. Edition of what?
Munchner Philharmoniker (Munich Philharmonic) plays
The symphony clocks in at 79:11 – Yikes!
This was recorded in Munich, Germany, on October 16, 1988
Celibidache was 75 when he conducted it
Bruckner was 50 when he finished composing it (the first time)
This recording was released on the Warner Classics label

Bruckner wrote his symphonies in four movements. The time breakdown of this one (Symphony No. 4 in E Flat Major), from this particular conductor (Celibidache) and this particular orchestra (Munchner Philharmoniker) is as follows:

I. Bewegt, nicht zu schnell……………………………………………………………………21:55
II. Andante, quasi allegretto…………………………………………………………………17:35
III. Scherzo. Bewegt (With motion) – Trio: Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast)……………………………………………………………………………………………………….11:03
IV. Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell (With motion, but not too fast)……………………………………………………………………………………………………….27:52

Total running time: 79:11 – Yikes!

Okay. Now, here are the subjective aspects:

My Rating:
Recording quality: 4
Overall musicianship: 4
CD liner notes: 4 (thin booklet mostly about Celibidache, with a wee bit about Bruckner, translated into English, German, and French – fascinating for me, but unfulfilling as a primer on Bruckner’s symphonies)
How does this make me feel: 3

First of all, at nearly 80 minutes in length, Celidibache’s interpretation of Bruckner’s Fourth has crossed the line into Ass Hurt territory. Even taking into account the Maestro’s infamous disregard for tempo (as I mentioned on Day 13), is there any reason why this symphony should be pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to hold on a standard CD?

Second, I really dislike it when a music label prints scant information on the CD sleeves. Take a look at what can be discerned from reading the back of CD 2 from the Celidibache box set:

The number of the CD
The name of the conductor
The name of the composer
The name of the symphony
The total running time of disc

And “See booklet for details” in italic.

Since Warner Classics had to (and did) print something on the back of the CD sleeve, would it really have killed them to include:

The track names and running times for each?
The version Celibidache used?
The name of the orchestra?
The name of the record label?

Third, I wasn’t feeling the magic with this performance. It felt rambling. Unfocused. Lacking energy.

Bottom line: Not even my appreciation for Zen could color my opinion of this performance. Nor, could my love for horns, the beauty of the opening movement, or the vigor usually present in the Finale. All this did was bore me to tears and waste 2-3 hours of my life.

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