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Carlo Maria Giulini - The Concerto Recordings
Nathan Milstein, Manoug Parikian, Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Mstislav Rostropovich, János Starker (cello)
Claudio Arrau, Alexis Weissenberg (piano)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Philharmonia Orchestra
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Track listing at end of review.
WARNER CLASSICS 4317612 [9 CDs: 536:34]

What better way to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini than welcome the plethora of boxed sets which have been issued recently as a tribute to the great maestro. Warner have released three boxes, and Universal and Sony are also in on the act, with the imminent release of sets from their respective stables.
 
One wouldn’t normally associate Giulini with Vivaldi yet, at the beginning of his career, he pursued an active interest in the Baroque. It must be remembered that before he took up the baton, he was a professional viola player with the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. So, in a work such as The Four Seasons, he was well within his comfort zone. The soloist on this occasion is Manoug Parikian, the then leader of the Philharmonia. The performance was set down in 1955, with an alternative take of Autumn included - a test pressing for stereo. It’s an upbeat performance with buoyant tempi. Parikian’s tone is warm and glowing and he delivers each concerto with élan. Giulini is an like-minded collaborator. With period instrument performances now the norm, it’s good to revisit the ‘good old days’. Being previously only available on Testament (SBT 1155), its inclusion here is appreciated.
 
János Starker is a cellist I greatly admire. The qualities which single him out and place him among the elite are his superb technique, his well-focused tone (which some find lean), his not over-indulgent rubato and a wonderful sense of line. We are treated to four concertos here and the orchestra in each case is the Philharmonia. The recordings date from the late ’fifties. They were all previously issued on a 6-CD ‘Introuvables’ set, devoted to Starker, put out by EMI France in 1995 and long since deleted. It is good to have them restored to circulation. I would single out the Haydn for special mention. Unlike his first concerto, Haydn’s second can be problematic in that many performances are meandering and lacking in direction. Starker has an understanding of the structure and gives a beautifully crafted account. Articulation is crisp in the faster passages, and the slow movement is fervent and deeply expressive.
 
The two Brahms Piano Concertos with Claudio Arrau were taped in 1960 and 1962. Again the orchestra is the Philharmonia. The pianist was later to record them with Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw. However, the performances here with Giulini are magisterial and big-boned. Whist some commentators have found the tempi rather ponderous, I don’t find this to be the case - rather that charge can be levelled against the Haitink versions. These EMI interpretations are engaging and have an inner logic, Arrau bringing to the scores many profound insights.
 
The two Mozart piano concertos, here played by Alexis Weissenberg have enjoyed only limited CD circulation, mainly in Japan, though they are included in the EMI Icon Box dedicated to this pianist. It’s the first time I have come across them, and they are very fine indeed. The orchestra is the Vienna Symphony, and the recording date, 1978. I was immediately struck by the exceptionally clear, beautiful tone of the piano. The recording engineers have achieved an ideal balance between soloist and orchestra. The concertos themselves are imbued with charm and elegance, with Weissenberg proving himself a worthy Mozartean.
 
Again, the Brahms Concerto with Weissenberg, Giulini and the LSO (1972) has until now only been available in Japan in CD format. It, too, is included in the Icon box. For some inexplicable reason, his recording with Muti and the Philadelphians seems to have had a higher profile. Quite why this is so, eludes me. I find it shallow, failing to penetrate to the heart of the music. This performance is more compelling and potent, with both conductor and pianist achieving a sense of shared purpose.
 
Milstein’s Prokofiev from 1962 is disappointing. It’s a half-hearted affair that lacks involvement. Perhaps he was just having a off-day. For those wanting to hear the violinist in this concerto, they would find more rewards in seeking out the performance from 1954 with Vladimir Golschmann and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
 
It is a pleasure for me to be reacquainted with Rostropovich’s Dvořák and Saint-Saëns concertos. I’ve lived with these performances for many years since I bought the LP when it was first released in 1978. For the purpose of this review, I listened to the Dvořák side by side with the recording the cellist made with Karajan. I had a few surprises. The Karajan version is in much brighter sound, and orchestral detail is much more pin-point. Also the cello seems more forwardly placed, striking a better balance. Generally speaking the Karajan version is preferable, more surprising when I noted that it was recorded nine years earlier than the Giulini, in 1968. What clinched it for me, in the end, was Karajan’s more upbeat tempo for the first movement; Giulini appears to be dragging his feet a little, in the pace set here. The Saint-Saëns, a great favourite of Rostropovich, is captivating and dramatic.
 
The last two CDs (8 and 9) feature the two greatest concertos in the violin repertoire – those of Beethoven and Brahms. Collectors will be familiar with these two recordings, two of the mainstays of the EMI catalogue over the past thirty years. The performer is Itzhak Perlman, the violinist who, in the opinion of many, assumed the mantle of greatest violinist of the second half of the twentieth century after the death of Jascha Heifetz. The recordings have had many reincarnations and, as an indication of the high esteem in which they are held, EMI eventually assigned them ‘GROC’ status.
 
Both are spacious readings, ably supported by Giulini who is magisterial in the tuttis. Solid and reliable, they provide benchmarks for many. Perlman is on technically top form, with an almost spiritual grasp of the long narratives of the Beethoven. Slow movements of both concertos are lyrical, expressive and rapturous, aided by the violinist’s rich, warm and full tone. Finales are energized with and characterized by a burning intensity.
 
Perlman went on to record these concertos with Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic in live performances which, for me, are more visceral and have the edge on Giulini. Interpretively these concertos are in a similar mould, but the live event seems to inspire the violinist to ratchet his playing up a notch and deliver interpretations of greater sustained potency. These performances were also filmed, and I would direct you to the DVD for its admirable camera-work and as a visual document of a master violinist at work.
 
Hats off to Warner for gathering these concerto performances under one roof. At budget price, this is an irresistible bargain.
 
Stephen Greenbank

Masterwork Index    
Beethoven violin concerto Brahms piano concerto 1 Brahms piano concerto 2
Brahms violin concerto Dvorak cello concerto Mozart piano concerto 9
Mozart piano concerto 21 Prokofiev violin concerto 1 The Four Seasons

Track-List
 
CD 1 [78.30]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Le Quattro Stagioni (‘The Four Seasons’) Op.8 Nos. 1–4
Concerto No.1 in E RV269 ‘La Primavera’
I.1. Allegro [3.33]
2 II. Largo e pianissimo sempre [2.36]
3 III. Allegro [4.24]
Concerto No.2 in G minor RV315 ‘L’Estate’
4 I. Allegro non molto [5.29]
5 II. Adagio [2.30]
6 III. Presto[3.05]
Concerto No.3 in F RV293 ‘L’Autunno’
7 I. Allegro [5.22]
8 II. Adagio molto [2.52]
9 III. Allegro [3.55]
Concerto No.4 in F minor RV297 ‘L’Inverno’
10 I. Allegro non molto [4.02]
11 II. Largo [2.41]
12 III. Allegro [3.01]
Recorded: 29 & 30.IX–1 & 2.X.1955, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producers: Alec Robertson, Geraint Jones, Walter Legge · Balance engineer: Neville Boyling 
P 1999* Testament MONO
Concerto No.3 in F RV293 ‘L’Autunno’
13 I. Allegro [5.22]
14 II. Adagio molto [2.52]
15 III. Allegro [3.55]
Recorded: 30.IX–1.X.1955, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Walter Jellinek · Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1999* Testament (Test recording for Stereo)
Manoug Parikian violin
Philharmonia Orchestra
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743–1805)
Cello Concerto in B flat G482
16 I. Allegro moderato [9.46]
17 II. Adagio non troppo [6.43]
18 III. Rondo: Allegro [5.38]
(Cadenzas: Hutter)
Recorded: 29 & 30.V.1958, Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: Walter Legge · Balance engineer: Douglas Larter P 1995*
 
CD 2 [63.14]
Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Cello Concerto No.2 in D Hob.VIIb/2
1 I. Allegro moderato [16.04]
2 II. Adagio [5.31]
3 III. Rondo: Allegro [5.32]
(Cadenzas: Starker)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
Cello Concerto in A minor Op.129
4 I. Nicht zu schnell [10.45]
5 II. Langsam – Etwas lebhafter – Schneller [4.09]
6 III. Sehr lebhaft [9.04]
Camille Saint-SAENS (1835–1921)
Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor
7 I. Allegro non troppo [11.49]
8 II. Allegretto con moto [4.55]
9 III. Allegro non troppo [3.19]
Recorded: 16 (7–9) & 17.IX.1957 (4–6), 29 & 30.V.1958 (1–3), Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: Walter Legge · Balance engineer: Douglas Larter P 1995*
János Starker cello
Philharmonia Orchestra
 
CD 3 [51.36]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor Op.15
1 I. Maestoso [23.30]
2 II. Adagio [15.06]
3 III. Rondo: Allegro non troppo [12.55]
 
CD 4 [51.00]
Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat Op.83
1 I. Allegro non troppo [19.11]
2 II. Allegretto appassionato [9.17]
3 III. Andante [12.05]
(Raymond Clark, cello)
4 IV. Allegretto grazioso [9.59]
Claudio Arrau, piano
Philharmonia Orchestra
Recorded: 21–23.IV.1960 (CD 3); 21 & 22.IV.1962 (CD 4), No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Walter Legge · Balance engineers: Harold Davidson (CD 3); Francis Dillnutt (CD 4) P 1988*
 
CD 5 [71.20]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D Op.19
1 I. Andantino [9.12]
2 II. Scherzo: Vivacissimo [3.53]
3 III. Moderato [7.49]
Nathan Milstein, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra
Recorded: 17–19.X.1962, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Richard C. Jones · Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1966/2005* Angel Records
Johannes BRAHMS
Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor Op.15
4 I. Maestoso [23.40]
5 II. Adagio [14.29]
6 III. Rondo: Allegro non troppo [12.04]
Alexis Weissenberg, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 29–30.XI.1972, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Michel Glotz · Balance engineer: Michael Gray P 1973/2012*
 
CD 6 [63.14]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Piano Concerto No.9 in E flat K271 ‘Jeunehomme’
1 I. Allegro [10.23]
2 II. Andantino [14.01]
3 III. Rondeau: Presto [9.57]
Piano Concerto No.21 in C K467
4 I. Allegro maestoso (Cadenza: Weissenberg) [13.44]
5 II. Andante [8.06]
6 III. Allegro vivace assai (Cadenza: Weissenberg) [6.28]
Alexis Weissenberg, piano
Wiener Symphoniker
Recorded: 23–25.VI.1978, Simmeringer Hof, Vienna
Producer: Michel Glotz · Balance engineers: Harold Lepschies (1–3); Wolfgang Gülich (4–6)
P 1979/1989* Parlophone Music France, a Warner Music Group Company
 
CD 7 [63.14]
Antonín DVORAK (1842–1904)
Cello Concerto in B minor Op.104
1 I. Allegro [16.30] 
2 II. Adagio manon troppo [12.54]
3 III. Finale: Allegro moderato [13.42]
Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835–1921)
Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor Op.33
4 I. Allegro non troppo – [5.28]
5 II. Allegretto con moto – [4.55]
6 III. Allegro non troppo [8.50]
Mstislav Rostropovich, cello
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded: 29, 30.IV & 1.V.1977, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 
Producer: David Mottley · Balance engineer: Neville Boyling P 1978/2001*
 
CD 8 [43.10]
Johannes BRAHMS
Violin Concerto in D Op.77
1 I. Allegro non troppo [24.39]
2 II. Adagio [10.06]
3 III. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace [8.20]
Itzhak Perlman, violin
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Recorded: 30.XI & 1.XII.1976, Medinah Temple, Chicago
Producer: Christopher Bishop · Balance engineer: Christopher Parker P 1977/1999*
 
CD 9 [44.00]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Violin Concerto in D Op.61
1 I. Allegro non troppo [24.26]
2 II. Larghetto [9.24]
3 III. Rondo: Allegro [10.08]
(Cadenzas: Kreisler)
Itzhak Perlman, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra
Recorded: 14 & 15.IX.1980, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: Suvi Raj Grubb · Balance engineer: Michael Gray P 1981
 


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