Symphony No.8 in C minor (1890 version, ed. Nowak) Dvořák
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88 Rossini
Carlo Maria Giulini
Bruckner recorded in the Royal Festival Hall, London on 18 September 1983; Dvořák recorded in the Royal Albert Hall, London on 8 August 1963; Rossini recorded in the Royal Festival Hall on 25 November 1963
CD No: BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4159-2 (2 CDs) Duration: 2 hours 14 minutes Reviewed: October 2004
BBC Legends Carlo Maria Giulini
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
A generous compilation that offers concert performances 20 years apart, either side of the Philharmonia Orchestras New phase, from a conductor that had a long and distinguished association with the orchestra. Giulini, now retired, celebrated his 90th birthday in May 2004.
Giulinis conception of Bruckners mighty Eighth Symphony is, as might be expected, on a large and searching scale. This is an enthralling rendition (and preferable to his DG recording with the Vienna Philharmonic), one that has haunted this writer since the concert and which, two decades later, seems every bit as imposing and transporting as memory suggested. Giulinis engrossing account is wholly organic. In the closing bars of the first movement, the ticking clock really does stop when the conductor, as Giulini does, resists even the merest suggestion of a ritardando. The scherzo may not go like a train but its very trenchancy builds up a fine head of steam, the trio bringing a temperate contrast. Throughout, theres a focus on the musics expressional reach and singular beauty that is the result of intensive study, painstaking preparation, and something not far short of Holy Communion between conductor and composer, and between conductor and orchestra. The slow movement is intensely eloquent, and Giulini builds the finale to transcendent release.
BBC Legends has previously released a radiant Giulini Bruckner 7, exceptional, and now issues this ecstatic account of No.8; similarly it is a mandatory purchase.
The Dvořák, from the 1963 Proms, is in stereo; its a lyrical and fiery account, with thrilling passion and urgency alongside the most eloquent phrasing and sensitive balances; a real concert performance, one that followed by 18 months their studio recording for Columbia/EMI. It sounds very well too; and writing as someone who is very susceptible to digital re-mastering that intercedes into musics real tones with tell-tale murkiness in bass and pianissimo passages and watery-sounding woodwinds etc it is very gratifying to hear Tony Faulkners expertise here. His transfer hasnt soured or bolstered the timbres; what we have is as honest as the performance itself, which is delightfully melodious and vividly detailed. And these audiophile comments are just as applicable to the Bruckner, which sounds just like a BBC relay from the Festival Hall (and more truthful than the BBC sometimes manages today!).
The Rossini (mono) is crisply dramatic and closes this pair of CDs (just as it did the 1963 concert) with a carefully crafted and bewitching texture of sound and exuberance.