Giulini's masterly way with Ravel's superbly glowing orchestration of
Mussorgsky's harrowing musical imagery has always been second to none. This
white-hot version compares favorably with the famous mid-seventies LAPO recording
for DG and if the latter is more polished and brilliant this Usher hall relay
from 1961 is full of dare-devil playing and really has the Philharmonia at
its corporate hair-raising best. Giulini favours consistently fast tempos
thus adding to the excitement of 'Gnomus' and the chattering 'Tuileries'.
The sense of mystery and desolation that permeates 'Catacombs' and 'Cum mortuis
in lingua mortua' is another Giulini hallmark whilst the expansive bombast
and earth shattering climax of the 'Great Gate of Kiev' is rather magical,
although here I marginally prefer the ponderous thread of the DG version.
Still this 1961 recording is an enticing prospect and is a fine window on
the early conducting of then, a much underrated artist.
The Pathetique' is also superbly crafted, climaxes are studied and emotionally
constrained and there are no shows of overt sentimentality. The clear mono
sound has much in common with Mravinsky's superb 1955 DG performance that
still remains my first choice for this wonderful symphony. However I marveled
at the potent force of the Philharmonia's playing in the savage Allegro molto
vivace and the sense of desolation achieved in that dismally bleak Finale
is also deeply felt by both conductor and orchestra. If not the best 'Pathetique'
around, this version will surely win new converts and deserves to be in the
catalogue at last. Superb remastering and excellent notes sum up this most