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Carlo Maria Giulini in Rehearsal
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)

Symphony No 9 in D minor (1896)
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini
Includes a rehearsal and a live concert performance
Video Director: Agnes Meth
Rec. 1996 location not stated
Sound format PCM stereo, Picture format 4:3, Region code 0, Menu and subtitle languages: English, German, French, Spanish
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 101 065 [123 minutes]

 

The great Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, 90 this year, has gained a considerable reputation in Bruckner. Surprisingly, in terms of recordings, this rests only on Symphonies 2, 7, 8 and 9, although there are both live and studio recordings of the last three. Here we have a live performance of the Ninth with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra captured on DVD video along with material of approximately equal length from a rehearsal.

I have never spent much time listening to rehearsals on record. Where they have been included as bonuses on CDs, I have probably never listened to that part of such discs more than once. Seeing as well as hearing undoubtedly makes the experience more interesting. Giulini was over 80 at the time this was made – he almost looks it in rehearsal but not at the concert. Nevertheless he has still had great authority and there was obviously good rapport with the orchestra. Speaking mostly in German but with occasional interjections in Italian (bravissimo!) and even English, he can be followed with subtitles in four languages (see above). There was plenty of body language and, repeatedly, Giulini asked the orchestra to sing. For much of the rehearsal he sang along loudly with orchestra whereas, during the concert, instead he seemed to be counting furiously and, fortunately, inaudibly. Giulini ended the rehearsal by congratulating the orchestra and asking them not to overdo it at the concert – "we’ll just play the notes". One point about the rehearsal that I found surprising was that it did not seem to take place in the concert hall itself.

Perhaps Giulini’s last exhortation was humorous for, at the concert, the excellent Stuttgart orchestra did much more than just play the notes. Giulini came alive and, in the front view camera angle (from slightly below), he looked quite demoniac in parts of the scherzo. As well as singing superbly, Giulini’s Bruckner tends to be long-breathed and glowing but his tempi here were not particularly slow (about 62 minutes in total – the same as his 1976 Chicago recording but about 6 minutes less than he took in Vienna in 1988). He is an absolute master of the difficult transitions and uses slight, natural sounding fluctuations in tempo unobtrusively. The effect is one of great grandeur whilst retaining organic cohesion. The emotional temperature of the adagio was perfectly judged and the concluding bars beautifully sustained. Overall, this was certainly a performance which "came off" and I detected no significant fluffs. The applause at the end did not seem to do it justice. I almost felt resentful towards the audience – didn’t they realize how privileged they were?

In comparison with other DVDs of classical music I have seen/heard, the sound, camera work and picture quality are perfectly fine. My DVD player is a budget one and, despite listening through an amplifier and speakers of high quality, the sound is inevitably not as good as can be obtained on CD. The implication is that anyone in a similar position equipment-wise who has other versions of this symphony may prefer not to play this for the sound only. The documentation does not specify the date or location of the concert but includes reasonable notes on the work, the conductor and his association with this composer.

This seems to be the first Bruckner Ninth on DVD** and is conducted by one of the work’s great exponents. Bravissimo!

Patrick C Waller

 

** Marc Bridle reports that Both Gunther Wand's RCA Bruckner 9 with
the NDR Symphony from Tokyo and a Karajan one on DG with the Vienna Phil are available
. He thinks there is now even a Sony Karajan Bruckner 9 with theBerlin Phil, an All Soul's day Concert from 1985. I have further located a DVD with the Europa Philharmonia conducted by Maximianno Cobra and a japanes release by Takashi Asahina
Will update if things become clearer
Len

 



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