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CD Review

Great Recordings of the Century

Philharmonia Orchestra & Choir/Carlo Maria Giulini
EMI Great Recordings of the Century 562746-2 76:57 ADD
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Giulini's 90th birthday has brought about considerable interest in his all too sparse discography and this superbly recorded and produced Ravel disc is a typical example of the high point of this conductor's art.

The pulse and tempo of 'La Mer' brings out the best of the Philharmonia Orchestra, a magnificently sonorous instrument in 1964. Giulini slows down in 'Jeaux de vagues' to create that wonderful sense of marine mystery whilst the concluding 'Dialogue du vent et de la mer' is astounding for its sonorous perfection. I cannot think of a better recording of this famous piece although Herbert von Karajan's 1964 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra runs it pretty close.

'Nocturnes' is also given a great interpretation with the sense of mystery and discovery once again paramount. 'Sirenes' is here the most palpably beautiful movement where the sense of communion between orchestra and conductor is almost sacred and hallowed. The Ravel pieces are also very strong and I was already familiar with these through the earlier acquisition of an old Eminence LP which has remained one of my sonic favourites. The energy of 'Aloborado del gracioso' is matched by the sheer sensuality of 'Daphnis et Chloé' and one must sample the gorgeous 'Pantomine' for further wonder.

This GROC reissue adds warmth and presence to what were already superb recordings and one also enjoys reading the essay written by Christopher Dingle that also quotes from old reports in 'Gramophone' and 'The Times' which only but confirm the legendary status of these great recordings that should be in any self respecting Francophile collection.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech