Sergiu Celibidache (1912 - 1996)
Romanian conductor & composer
Sergiu Celibidache was a Romanian conductor, composer, and teacher. Educated in his native Romania, and later in Paris and Berlin, Celibidache's career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor for the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Sicilian Symphony Orchestra and several European orchestras. Later in life, he taught at Mainz University in Germany and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Celibidache frequently refused to release his performances on commercial recordings during his lifetime, claiming that a listener could not obtain a "transcendental experience" outside of the concert hall. Many of the recordings of his performances were released posthumously. Nonetheless, he earned international acclaim for celebrated interpretations of the classical music repertoire and was known for a spirited performance style informed by his study and experiences in Zen Buddhism. His later career was marred by controversy and accusations of sexism and discrimination that came to light during a 12-year legal battle that dominated his tenure at the Munich Philharmonic. Celibidache is regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.
Sergiu Celibidache was born on 28 June 1912 in Roman, a small town in North East Romania, where his father was a government official. Early in his youth, he began studying piano and after traditional schooling in Romania, he was sent by his father to Bucharest and then to Paris where he studied music, philosophy and mathematics. His father had expected him to pursue a political career in Romania. However, Celibidache chose to enroll in the Hochschule für Musik (Academy of Music) in Berlin, Germany in 1936 where he studied composition under Heinz Tiessen and later conducting under Kurt Thomas, Walter Gmeindl and Fritz Stein. He continued with doctoral studies at the Friedrich Wilhelm University (Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität) in Berlin where he studied philosophy with Nicolai Hartmann and Eduard Spranger and musicology with Arnold Schering and Georg Schünemann. He submitted a dissertation on Franco-Flemish composer Josquin des Prez (c. 1450–1521) and his work during the Renaissance. He received his degree in 1944. During his studies in Berlin, Celibidache was introduced to Zen Buddhism through the influence of his teacher, Martin Steinke, and the tenets of Buddhism informed Celibidache's worldview and work for the rest of his life.