Magic Moments of Music | Sergiu Celibidache and the Berliner Philharmoniker

A film by Holger Preuße and Philipp Quiring, ZDF/ARTE, 52 min., 2023

It was only through the request of the then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker that the concert came about in 1992. The legendary Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache and the Berlin Philharmonic were to be reconciled. Celibidache had shaped the orchestra in over 400 concerts between 1945 and 1954 after the end of the Second World War. When, after the death of Wilhelm Furtwängler – the long-time chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic – the orchestra chose Herbert von Karajan as his successor instead of Sergiu Celibidache, a dispute arose, and the two eventually parted ways. Celibidache withdrew, deeply offended, and refused any offer of further collaboration.

It took 38 years for Sergiu Celibidache to return to the podium of the Berlin Philharmonic. It went down in music history as the so-called ‘reconciliation concert’. Celibidache made it a condition that he would receive twice as many rehearsals as usual. The program included Anton Bruckner’s 7th Symphony. Before the musicians, Celibidache confessed that the Berlin Philharmonic had played a “determinant role” in his life, and he had the opportunity to make his “first musical and human experiences” there.

In addition to rehearsal and concert excerpts, the film features Celibidache’s son, Serge Ioan Celebidachi, contemporary witnesses from the Berlin Philharmonic, the orchestra’s horn player Sarah Willis, the young French conductor Marie Jacquot, his last conducting student Rémy Ballot, and the Romanian conductor Cristian Măcelaru. They provide insight into Sergiu Celibidache’s personality, working methods, and understanding of music.