Celi’s Pocket Garden

0 of 5 stars

Der Taschengarten

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sergiu Celibidache

Recorded May to September 1979 at Funkstudio, Stuttgart

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: January 2003
CD No: DG 471 612-2

As a conductor, Sergiu Celibidache is one of the supreme maestri. Thankfully, due to DG and EMI issuing ’official’ concert recordings from (mostly) Stuttgart and Munich, the sheer genius of Celibidache’s conducting is comprehensively available – not only to be relished but also to have one’s life changed. Celibidache’s art is based on the interrelationship of instrumental sound and acoustic-science.

As a composer, Celi’s output included four symphonies, music that he seems never to have conducted and not trusted to anyone else. One presumes, then, that these scores have never been performed … the booklet note for this issue is also vague as to when Celi actually composed Der Taschengarten, which was written for children and inspired by conversations with children. Celi’s prose for the thirteen movements (the last a reprise of the first) is attractively naïve. The music is anything but – magical-sounding, suggestive of space and conceptually allusive, The Pocket Garden is scored with the same fastidiousness and research that hallmarks his conducting.

The opening, rather quirky movement reminds of Milhaud in its dance and wit. A succession of mostly moderate pieces follow that are dressed with French lightness of touch and refinement – a suggestion of Roussel and, to a lesser extent, Dutilleux; lovers of Ravel’s Mother Goose will find much that is attractive. There are also subliminal glimpses of Bartók, Enescu, Prokofiev and Stravinsky.

The booklet note implies that Celibidache’s aspired to compositional freedom – this suite is impressionistic, melodic, and sweetly and subtly coloured; it is music that is free yet controlled and conveys infinite expression and suggestion. The most extended movement concerns a missing hedgehog; this is also the most Bartókian in soundworld. The subsequent prayer, which is very moving, ensures the hedgehog is returned – with a lady companion!

Romanian-born Celibidache, 1912-1996, made only a handful of studio recordings, which are from the ’forties and ’fifties. This ’return’ was made just before digital technology was widely introduced. The ADD sound is clearly balanced. There is occasional studio noise that might have allowed for re-takes, and a noticeable edit in track 12 at 3’15”. There is some restriction in both dynamics and perspective; the focus though on the bass-line is echt-Celibidache as is the clarity and relationship of inner parts. Celibidache’s ear for the most piquant of instrumental touches is admirably conveyed.

Der Taschengarten is intriguing as music and sound; it receives a lucid and discriminating performance (of course!); I find this creation more rewarding with each playing. It’s a real pleasure to have one’s appreciation of this greatest of musicians extended.

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