Carlo Maria Giulini's 90th birthday has brought about a much needed review of his classic recordings and this splendidly recorded set from the late 60's and 70's is definitely a case in point. The Bruckner and Mahler recordings tower above the rest for their sense of majesty whilst we get a rare glimpse of the great Italian conductor in Stravinsky and Brahms not to mention the much loved Beethoven Seventh from 1969.
Giulini's Mahler First is full of those wonderful details that make his interpretations so special. First we have that magical opening that then leads to glorious exuberation, just compare Barbirolli (Dutton) here and you will note the difference. The Finale is also paced with wonderful alacrity and those Chicago trumpets really bring the house down at the end. Giulini's Berlioz is also carefully paced and weighted and the result is some magical music especially in the fabled 'Queen Mab' Scherzo. The gorgeous Love Scene is also quite astounding on all counts.
EMI has already issued this Beethoven Seventh in their Great Conductors series and it has already been widely praised for its hallowed beauty. The Bruckner Ninth is similarly majestic and noble in scope with a Walter like climax being reached at the end of the First Movement and the gorgeous Finale. The Brahms Fourth is excellent although here I do prefer more classic accounts such as the ones from Krips, Kertész and the wonderful Toscanini although this is strictly a personal opinion.
Stravinsky is not a composer that you would associate with Giulini but listening to these white hot accounts of the 'Firebird' and 'Pétrouchka' suites, one is made to think again. The virtuosos orchestra play with a feeling for these colourful works and the Italian conductor is always there to point out particular details with magnificent timing. This was the revelation of the set for me. EMI has produced excellent remastering and the notes are also well written by John Tolansky. A fine memorial of this unique conductor that should be sought out by any self respecting orchestral enthusiast.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech