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Sergiu Celibidache
Der Tauschengarten (The Pocket Garden) (U.S. Premiere)

Sergiu Celibidache was best known as a brilliant, demanding conductor; he also taught conducting and was an occasional composer. Born in Romania, Celibidache displayed musical talent as a child. In 1936, he began his adult musical studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin; concurrently, Celibidache also studied music history, aesthetics, and philosophy at Berlin’s Friedrich-Wilhelm University, where he discovered Zen Buddhism. Celibidache embraced Zen’s teachings and values, and they became an essential component of his approach to life and work thereafter. 

In 1946, Celibidache became co-principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, a post he shared with Wilhelm Furtwängler, from 1947 to 1952. From 1962 through 1977, Celibidache led the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra; the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre Nationale de France. He was also a frequent guest conductor for numerous other ensembles. In 1979, Celibidache became Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and remained at its head until his death in 1996.
Celibidache disdained recorded music, believing his audiences could not have what he termed “transcendental experiences” unless they heard the music live. Consequently, although many of his own concerts were recorded and later broadcast on radio and television, Celibidache made only a few studio recordings, most in the 1940s and 50s. In 1979, Celibidache recorded Der Taschengarten, his unpublished 13-movement suite for children, with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. It was his first studio recording in 25 years; all the earnings from sales went to UNICEF.

In the liner notes, Celibidache explained that Der Taschengarten evolved from and was inspired by many “intensive conversations” he had with children, and described the work as “a composition in violation of the rules.”

Celibidache’s narrative for each movement, and his general comments about the piece, were clearly written with young listeners in mind. Overall, the music has a lighthearted whimsical quality, although certain movements, particularly “Hedgehog, where are you?” explore darker realms. Colors, emotions, and interesting textures abound, and throughout there are passages that evoke the music of Debussy, Prokofiev, and Bartók, among others. 

At a Glance
  • Composer: born July 11, 1912, Roman, Romania; died August 14, 1996, Paris
  • Work composed: 1978
  • World premiere: undocumented; Celibidache led the Stuttgart Radio Symphony in a recording which was issued in 1979
  • Instrumentation: 2 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (1 doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, bass drum, 4 bongos, crotales, 2 suspended cymbals, glockenspiel, gong, ratchet, snare drum, tambino, tambourine, tenor drum, whistle, wood block, xylophone, piano, harp, and strings 
  • Duration: about 44 minutes

© Elizabeth Schwartz.