Giulini in Boston [Pristine Audio]

4 of 5 stars

Symphony No.9 in E-minor, Op.95 (From the New World)
Symphony No.94 in G (Surprise)
L’Italiana in Algeri – Overture
Symphony No.2 in C-minor, Op.17 (Little Russian) [Revised Version]

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Carlo Maria Giulini

Recorded in Boston Symphony Hall, Massachusetts, on 2 & 9 March 1962

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2019
PASC 559 (2 CDs)
Duration: 1 hour 53 minutes

One of the great conductors, Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005) had long-standing and titled relationships with the Chicago Symphony and the LA Phil; less well-documented (until now) are the few concerts he gave in Boston, in 1962, 1969 and 1974, twenty in all, but not that number of programmes, for subscription events are scheduled more than once. Pristine Audio has been on the hunt for surviving broadcasts and has found these well-preserved stereo tapes from two concerts that are now expertly re-mastered by Andrew Rose, warm and detailed, although just occasionally the bass frequencies discolour slightly, whereas leaving a little more hiss would have been of no consequence.

Hopefully, further Giulini in Boston examples can be found, for what we have at present is stellar, and if not adding to Giulini’s discography in terms of repertoire, it is clear that his innate sensitivity and intensity transferred magnetically to the Boston musicians for whom 1962 was a transitional year of music director, from Charles Munch to Erich Leinsdorf.

From Giulini the Haydn is very agreeable and also timeless – transcending any need for fad or fancy – notable for gravitas, articulate tempos, exquisite expressiveness (wonderful woodwinds in the slow movement), and with a Minuet that really dances, the Trio encapsulated in tempo to its surrounds. The ‘Surprise’ is partnered by the ‘Little Russian’ Symphony, plenty of affection and energetic sweep in evidence, if perhaps too much scenery-gazing (sectionalising), proving if nothing else that Giulini had a soft-spot for this hugely enjoyable music – poetic turns and rhythmic bounce abound, so too considerations for texture and dynamics that give you an appreciative shiver (and no cuts in the Finale, it has been known, although the gong-stoke, if there at all, hardly registers) – and which at times brings out the opera-house conductor in him.

Talking of which, the Overture to Rossini’s dramma giocoso sparkles and its melodies are cherished, although crescendos are smoothed out, no doubt down to the recording. This leaves the ‘New World’ Symphony. Heading my list for this are Concertgebouw/Colin Davis, Vienna/Kondrashin, Israel/Bernstein and BBCSO/Kempe. I am now adding Boston/Giulini; together they conjure a reading that searches the music for significance rather than merely giving it with everyday familiarity; the cor anglais- (English horn-) led Largo especially radiates the most-eloquent sentiments, and is undisrupted by tempo changes. The Finale is magnificent.

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