With all due respect to the other reviewer, describing this recording as "very satisfying" seems to be damning it with faint praise. I was dumbstruck after my first hearing, even though I'd played the justly-lauded Karajan set only two nights before. You don't so much listen to these discs as cower at their feet, in awe of the power, beauty and grandeur of Bruckner's epic vision. This is easily as great a recording of this mighty symphony as Karajan's with the same orchestra, but I love this one even more. There's an added frisson of electricity throughout, more than a touch of terror in the great climax of the first movement and spine-tingling beauty in that great, melancholic adagio. The last few bars of the finale, with the huge, swinging brass chords ringing out like the bells of a vast cathedral, are quite overwhelming! Giulini takes things a little slower than Karajan but, far from dragging, the performance seems to grow shorter with repeated listening, such is the coherence of his reading. It almost goes without saying that the playing of the VPO is simply peerless throughout, as is the recording quality, which perhaps reveals a little more orchestral detail than the Karajan.
Karajan is the household name in this repertoire but don't overlook this set or you'll miss out on something really very special indeed. A towering performance.