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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
Symphony No.9 in G major D.944 The Great.
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786 - 1826)

Der Freischutz Overture.
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 - 1976)

The Building of the House Overture, Op.79.
London Philharmonic Orchestra (Schubert) New Philharmonia Orchestra, (Weber) New Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra (Britten), conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini.
recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, London 14th May 1975 (Schubert) 13th December 1970 (Weber), and 16th January 1968 (Britten). Plus a short interview of Giulini by Alan Haydock. (ADD Ė mono - Weber and Britten, stereo - Schubert)
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4140-2 [73.13]


Here we have a celebration of Giuliniís 90th birthday by the BBC in re-mastered live relays from the Royal Festival Hall. Whilst I applaud the sentiment behind this disc particularly now that Giulini is no longer active in the recording studio, I believe a little more imagination could have been used in the repertoire chosen. Here we have an extremely hissy mono rendering of the Weber overture, albeit wonderfully played, with a stereo recording of Schubertís Great C Major Symphony, and followed up by another mono recording of Brittenís The Building of the House Overture. The earliest recording here (1968) was made ten years after the introduction of stereo, and the BBC still was not on the new, or by now not-so-new technology.

Giuliniís ability to get an orchestra to love playing for him is well in evidence here. The inclusion of the Weber is partly due to the fact that although he recorded it for EMI, this was never released so it is new repertoire for the conductor on record. The inclusion of the Britten is because of Giuliniís great love of the composer. It is a relatively slight work but although good is in no way representative of either composer or conductor. This leaves us with the main work on the disc, Schubertís Great C Major Symphony, well known to us already in the guise of two commercial recordings, both with the Chicago Symphony on DG and then on Sony. As both of these are in much superior sound quality, is there any good reason for buying the current disc if the Weber and Britten are not mandatory purchases?

The London Philharmonic plays superbly for their conductor, albeit not with the tonal splendour of the other two performances. There is a benefit to the current release however and this is the flexibility of the phrasing, which, in the live environment, sounds absolutely natural with the rhythms taking on a life all of their own. Particularly attractive are the coda to the first movement and the finale; the latter bubbles along, not too fast as with some, but resiliently sprung in a very attractive manner.

The RFH audience is fairly quiet, and it erupts at the end, showing its appreciation which was very well deserved.

Turning finally to the Britten, the presence of the choir was due to the fact that in this programme, Giulini also conducted Rossiniís Stabat Mater, thus requiring the presence of the choir for a little more than just the overture. Giuliniís sympathy with Britten is well known from superb recordings of the Young Personís Guide to the Orchestra, and the Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes.

Giulini was famous for his ability to control and motivate choral (and operatic) forces and the choir here sing with confidence, clarity and enthusiasm in the work which was originally written to commemorate the opening of the Maltings at Snape in 1967. This performance records what was Giuliniís only public performance of the work.

Recommended to those who have neither of the commercial recordings of the Schubert or to those who are Giulini completists.

John Phillips

 



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