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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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When I started studying classical music (at the University of Hard Knocks) Giulini was one of the first conductors I came to admire. (The first was Solti, who I can no longer abide). I don't even recall why. I am sure it was one of the first records I bought with Giulini at the helm, hell it may have even been the LP that featured the Debussy items in this release.

He is also the first 'famous' conductor I got to watch in action.* The Maestro was in Columbus, Ohio with his LA Phil. I drove down from Toledo, Ohio (where I had a teaching gig) with my friend Bruce Knecht. Giulini did Beethoven's "Eroica" and Hindemith's Mathis der Maler. At one point in the slow movement of the Beethoven something sounded amiss. Then I heard someone humming and wondered what the hell was going on. We sat close to the front and I looked up at Giulini. He was so thin that his tux looked like it was hanging on a scarecrow. HE was humming! The orchestra had somehow gotten out of sync and the conductor was humming to get them back on track. As we were leaving the concert Bruce looked over to me and said, "Stumpf, that Hindemith kicked my shit!"

Anyway, I am now not so sure what it was about his conducting I liked so much. Whilst every piece on this release is no less than at least very good, I kept feeling uneasy. At one point I asked myself, "Why am I listening to this 'Daphnis' when I could be listening to Stokowski?" I am quite sure that this feeling is not due to my close ties to the Stokowski legacy. For the "La Mer" I found myself thinking the same thing except I was thinking of Munch or Martinon or Monteux.

That is, whilst these recordings are very good and well recorded, they just don't have that swing. My mind seems to wander instead of getting involved. Others may well be more impressed than I. I had hoped to like this much more. So it goes.

* Since then I have had the pleasure to watch Ashkenazy and talk with Walter Hendl. As a rule I avoid concerts. They let too many people into them.

Copyright © 2004, Robert Stumpf II