This issue is Volume 18 in EMI Classics’ series of
the Great Conductors. So far the series has given us some real treats
from the stocks of unissued recordings by the major companies and radio
archives as well as re-issues of some treasured items. Volume 18 is
It is difficult to register that Giulini has not recorded
any material since the mid to late nineties, and has now retired from
conducting altogether. When one thinks of favourite Giulini recordings,
on investigation, they nearly all come from at least twenty years ago.
His reputation has been kept alive by a stream of re-issues from his
three main sources, EMI, DG and Sony.
As he has aged, his interpretations have generally
become slower and slower. It is very good therefore to be able to welcome
this compilation, which comes from earlier in his career, when he was
a great favourite in London giving many concerts with the Philharmonia.
The earliest are the Stravinsky and Bizet items from
1956. These have the Philharmonia in excellent fettle, with flexible
rhythms and warm, vital performances in evidence. Both were recorded
in the Kingsway Hall.
Another Philharmonia recording is the Schumann Third
in the Mahler reorchestration from 1958. Again, this is in clear, warm
sound, typical of EMI orchestral recordings of the day. These were set
down at the Abbey Road studios, rather than the Kingsway Hall.
The Tancredi Overture was recorded in 1964.
There has for many years been an EMI Studio recording of a collection
of Rossini Overtures by these artists. If you have a copy of this, you
will know what to expect, with Giulini’s extensive operatic experience
shining through. Here is an example of one of the best points of this
series, in releasing a recording not previously released. Thus we get
an opportunity to hear further examples of the conductor’s art rather
than duplicating works we may already have.
The Chicago performance of the Beethoven 7th
is a typical Transatlantic effort: big, powerful brass and Giulini’s
lithe spirited interpretation, a little on the slow side, but really
getting the essence of the dance over to the listener.
The sleeve note warns us not to expect too much from
the Egmont Overture, recorded live with the RAI Turin Orchestra.
I was expecting something dire as a result, but on hearing it, there
was a certain pleasure in listening to such a vital performance. The
recording quality is clear and the audience, although audible is commendably
Another live performance is that of the Vienna Symphony
Orchestra playing a Johan Strauss waltz. Interesting, given the repertoire
that Giulini tended to specialise in, but not a determining factor for
or against purchase.
The highlight of these discs, for me, was the performance
of Ma Mère l’Oye, recorded live in Munich in 1979. This
is delectable, with a wonderful sensitivity to Ravel’s score. The German
Orchestra play beautifully for the Italian master. It sounds as though
it is a composite of two live performances, given the lack of audience
noise throughout, quite apart from thunderous applause at the end. This
is worth the cost of the set alone.
conductors of the 20th Century