What a change from the raw and histrionic recordings, which are a dime a dozen nowadays. There is nothing 'authentic' about Giulini's versions--no gut strings, no 415 pitch, no 'obviously intended' tempi--but Giulini himself. The maestro can take his time by perfect pulse. The Eroica is jaw-droppingly beautiful, inimitable, unprecedented. Sometimes Giulini's slow tempi take some getting used to--Bach's Mass in B Minor has a touch of those '50s versions which now seem antiquated (but is distinctly fast in comparison with Mengelberg). The Brahms is full of colour. Yes, Giulini deserves the epithet which he has received: the greatest.
This is a fascinating collection of recordings. I had known some before buying this set, though only actually had one (Dvorak 8). They are distnguished readings, mostly characterised by slow tempi with 'curved' turns of phrase rather than angular. 'A combination of Klemperer and Haitink' was the thought that occurred to me several times during listening. The tempi are like Klemperer's, but there the comparison ends. Klemperer always played with plenty of thrust and very pointed rhythms, despite the usually slow pulse, but comparing the repertoire recorded here with Haitink, where applicable, one becomes aware of how Haitink 'rounds the corners' to produce a suave effect. It is this that Giulini achieves here, though at Klemperer's pace, more often than not. If you like interpretations that are well thought out and felt through, you will love everything here. If however, you like the the brisker Charles Mackerras touch or clipped period instrument style, pass on by. For me, these CDs are superior even to the 'Vienna' box on DG (where duplications occur), but the DG box does inlcude the Liszt PIano Concertos with Lazar Berman and the Brahms symphonies, wich are well worth having.
After buying this set, I approached playing it with some trepidation. This is because received "wisdom" would have us believe that the older Giulini became, the slower his interpretations were. Yes, it's true that the speeds adopted in these standard repertoire works are comparatively steady and sometimes downright slow, but to judge the music making on the grounds of tempi alone would be a mistake. Giulini approaches all these works in a romantic manner. This sort of music-making is out of fashion now. One of Giulini's mentors was Bruno Walter and it shows. Giulini is simply interpreting the music through his own romantic vision. Would you want to hear the same interpretation of all these masterpieces over and over again? I think not. On some days, I like to hear Beethoven symphonies conducted by the likes of Zinman or Vanska. On other days, it will be Giulini to whom I turn. In his hands, all the music in this box sings. I have lost count of the number of times certain instrumental lines are elucidated and details are uncovered. Hearing these interpretations is like riding in a luxury car at a steady speed. There is time to look out of the window and admire the view. Giulini gives himself space to uncover detail and inner parts. At the same time, though speeds are steady, the music has an inner life and rhythmic pulse which prevents it from becoming bogged down. Every note is given its full measure. Perhaps the most controversial interpretation in the box is the Bach Mass. Be prepared to get on to Giulini's wavelength, or just treat it as a one-off experience! Look at the orchestras involved here. The cream of European ensembles. Giulini elicits beautiful playing from all of them and Sony has provided wonderful digital sound. In summary then, while none of these recordings would be considered mainstream, primary recommendations, they are richly enjoyable on their own terms and allow us to enjoy the fruits of Giulini's lifetime experience in works he clearly loves.
In his late sixties, midway through the Los Angeles period, Giulini's interpretations became more serious and thoughtful. Detractors would say stodgy. His internal clock certainly slowed down. After retiring from Los Angeles, Giulini returned to the continent where he guest-conducted most of the great orchestras. Documented by Sony and Deutsche Gramophon (now Universal). Both companies are reissuing their recordings in inexpensive boxed sets.
The following is a discography of Giulini's European recordings, 1975-1995, on Sony (*) , and Deutsche Gramophon (** Giulini in Vienna) , (*** additional DG recordings):
- Bach: Mass in B Minor BWV.232 -- Bavarian Radio Symphony * - Beethoven: Symphonies 1-8, Coriolan & Egmont Overtures, Violin Concerto & Romances w/ Salvatore Accardo -- La Scala Philharmonic * - Beethoven: Symphony 9 -- Berlin Philharmonic *** - Beethoven: Piano Concerti 1,3,5 w/ Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli -- Vienna Symphony ** - Brahms: 4 Symphonies, Haydn Variations, Tragic Overture, German Requiem -- Vienna Philharmonic ** - Bruckner: Symphonies 7,8,9 -- Vienna Philharmonic ** - Debussy: La Mer, Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun -- Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra * - Dvorak: Symphonies 7,8,9 -- Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra * - Einem: An die Nachgeborenen Op.42 -- Vienna Symphony ** - Faure: Requiem -- Philharmonia Orchestra *** - Franck: Symphony in D Minor, Psyche et Eros -- Berlin Philharmonic *** - Franck: Symphony in D minor, Symphonic Variations w/ Paul Crossley -- Vienna Philharmonic * - Liszt: Piano Concerti w/ Lazar Berman -- Vienna Symphony ** - Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde -- Berlin Philharmonic *** - Mozart: Symphonies 39,40,41, Sinfonia Concertante K.543 -- Berlin Philharmonic * - Mozart: Requiem -- Philharmonia Orchestra * - Mozart: Piano Concerto 23 w/ Vladimir Horowitz -- La Scala Philharmonic *** - Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition -- Berlin Philharmonic * - Ravel: Ma Mere l'Oye, Pavane -- Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra * - Ravel: Pavane -- Philharmonia Orchestra *** - Rossini: Stabat Mater -- Philharmonia Orchestra *** - Schubert: Symphonies 4,8,9, Mass in E-flat D.950 -- Bavarian Radio Symphony * - Schumann: Piano Concerto w/ Evgeny Kissin -- Vienna Philharmonic * - Stravinsky: Firebird Suite -- Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra * - Verdi: Quattro Pezzi Sacri -- Berlin Philharmonic * - Verdi: Requiem -- Berlin Philharmonic *** - Verdi: Rigoletto -- Vienna Philharmonic ** - Verdi: Il Trovatore -- Santa Cecilia Orchestra *** - Vivaldi: Credo RV.591 -- Berlin Philharmonic *
Most were re-recordings; but there are significant additions to his London, Chicago and Los Angeles discographies:
- Bach: Mass * - Beethoven: Symphonies 1,2,4, Coriolan Overture, Romances *, Piano Concerti 1,3,5 ** - Brahms: German Requiem ** - Bruckner: Symphonies 7,8 ** - Einem: An die Nachgeborenen ** - Faure Requiem *** - Franck: Symphonic Variations * - Liszt: Piano Concerti ** - Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde *** - Mozart: Symphony 39, Sinfonia Concertante *, Piano Concerto 23 ** - Rossini: Stabat Mater *** - Schubert: Mass * - Verdi: Rigoletto ** , Il Trovatore *** - Vivaldi: Credo *
_ * "Giulini: The Complete Sony Recordings" - the box under review. _** Giulini In Vienna : Deutsche Gramophon recordings *** DG recordings not yet collected in a box - mostly Berlin Philharmonic (this would be a 9 CD set)
COMPLETE SONY RECORDINGS: This is Late Giulini: Slow, Serious, Thoughtful. Not Excitable. Two-thirds of the 22 CDs in this box are devoted to re-makes of music that Giulini had recorded earlier in his career (vs. one-third in DG's "Giulini in Vienna" box). Of all the re-makes, only one - the Bruckner 9th in the "Giulini in Vienna" box - would I count as an absolute improvement over his earlier recording. Maybe the Mozart Requiem in Sony's box.
Unlike the DG box, which had recordings dating back to 1975, the Sony box is strictly late Giulini, 1989-1995. The Sony box does have approximately seven CDs of material new to Giulini's discography. Best of all, it doesn't cost a lot of money to introduce yourself to the special pleasures of Late Giulini.
- Beethoven: Giulini was unique among conductors of his generation in never having recorded the complete Symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven. Sony set out to remedy this omission. Earlier, between 1968 and 1981, he had recorded Symphonies 3, 5, 6 (twice), 7, 8 and 9, in London, Chicago and Los Angeles. This was middle-period Giulini. In his prime. Unlike some composers (Bruckner, Mahler) the serious, world-weary approach of Late Giulini was not always a good match for Beethoven. Exception: the 1990 re-make of the Ninth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic (DG). A spiritual experience,though not necessarily preferable to his more vigorous 1972 London recording.
Between 1991 and 1993 Sony recorded Symphonies 1 through 8 with the La Scala Philharmonic. Presumably they planned to complete the set with the Ninth, but the project fell through. Twenty years ago, I would have described these performances as "arthritic". On second hearing, this Beethoven sounds a lot more congenial - I guess I'm getting pretty arthritic myself. I only wish he had recorded Symphonies 1, 2 and 4 earlier in his career.
- Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Salvatore Accardo is more successful. The first movement (25:49) stresses lyricism over drama. Beautiful performance, if you don't mind two slow movements and a finale (I don't).
- The Franck d Minor Symphony works at Giulini's slow tempo. First movement = 21:30, which brings out brings out all the doom and gloom in this manic-depressive music, even if I ultimately prefer dry-eyed Pierre Monteux's peppy performance (18:02) : Franck: Symphony in D Minor Not to mention that speed demon Otto Klemperer (17:53) : Otto Klemperer: Romantic Symphonies
- Mozart Requiem: To my mind, Giulini's 1978 EMI recording: Mozart: Requiem / Exsultate Jubilate (54:44) was the best of the traditional big orchestra, big chorus performances. Preferable to Bernstein, Bohm, Karajan or Solti. This 1989 performance (60:15) may be even better. Close call. Dramatic and awe-inspiring. Great chorus, great soprano (Lynne Dawson), great bass (Simon Estes).
Presentation: Everything comes in an attractive cardboard box with a nice booklet. Original jacket format with cover art on the front and track listings on the back. Minimal program notes, no texts or translations for the vocal works (standard Roman Catholic liturgy).
Sound: Unlike other Sony boxes, nothing here is newly remastered. Still, the sound is quite good - most are original 20-bit masterings. I was particularly impressed with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw recordings. Gorgeous. Especially Ravel's Ma Mere l'Oye and Dvorak's New World Symphony. The brass playing in the finale of the Dvorak is enhanced by the hall's long reverberation time, but the strings are not overpowered (this probably involved some tricky microphone placement - normally something I would disapprove of, but it works here).
A number of Giulini's concert performances with the Berlin Philharmonic have also been issued on the Testament label. Pricey, but nice. Some feature composers new to his discography (Gabrieli, Geminiani, Webern), but most are alternate views of music he had already recorded for the major labels. On the Amazon search bar, enter Music: Giulini Testament
Sometimes this duplication got out-of-hand. There are three recordings of Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" to choose from - All with Brigitte Fassbaender and Francisco Araiza. - 1984: Berlin Philharmonic, DG studio recording Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde - 1984: Berlin Philharmonic in concert, live on Testament - 1987: Vienna Philharmonic in concert, live on Orfeo One could almost justify this if different singers were involved. To see your options, on the Amazon search bar, enter Music: Giulini Lied von der Erde