Celibidache was a man of extremes - or rather, his human nature was extreme. There was nothing he hated more than indifference and mediocrity - especially in himself. No wonder that, uncompromisingly and without resting on success, he made the highest demands on himself and his fellow musicians.
In a radio interview he declared that "music does not consist in playing sounds one after the other, but in letting a sound emerge from the preceding one, so that there is no possibility of leaving the continuity of the experience and losing oneself in thought" (Patrick Lang).
Norbert Busè's documentary is a moving portrait of the legendary conductor. During filming, the director accidentally discovers Celibidache's curriculum vitae in the archives of the Berlin Academy of Music - rewritten by the conductor himself to fuel his career.
For the first time, interviews with his sister Irina-Paraschiva and his son Serge provide interesting insights into Celibidache's thoughts and private life which he had kept very private during his lifetime.
This is a portrait of a conductor who perhaps more than any other understood how to combine theory and passion, ruthlessness and sympathy, and who had an ability to communicate his burning passion for music. He was also a gifted teacher who dedicated much of his time to educate younger musicians. In the film, several of his students pay tribute to their much-admired maestro.
The film does not, however, touch upon a chapter in Celibidache's life that is less admireable. During his tenure as music director and principal conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, he pushed to remove principal trombonist Abbie Conant from her position - simply because she was female.
Conant had been engaged in Munich as a solo trombonist. For equality reasons, the audition for the selection had taken place behind a curtain. Abbie Conant was chosen for the position, but once her contract was signed, Celibidache used his power as a conductor to demote her, and stated that the demotion was due to her gender. In a legal battle with the orchestra's owner, the City of Munich, Conant first fought to be reinstated to her rightful place as a soloist, and subsequently also sued for equal pay. Conant won both cases. A total of 14 years passed between her unlawful demotion and the court's final decision in the equal pay case.