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SCHUMANN: Symphony No.3; TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No.2 – Philharmonia Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini – Conductor – Praga Digitals Hybrid Stereo

Fine vintage performances of two romantic symphonies

SCHUMANN: Symphony No.3; TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No.2 – Philharmonia Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini, Conductor – Praga Digitals Hybrid Stereo SACD – PRD 350135 TT:75:28 (1/6/17) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ***

Praga Digitals has given us two lovely romantic symphonies and Schumann’s Overture to Manfred on this remastering of some older recordings from the fifties on a hybrid SACD/CD.

The disc begins with the Manfred Overture, and is followed by Schumann’s Symphony no. 3. Also known as the ‘Rhenish’, it was Schumann’s last symphony, although some works were published after this symphony. He was inspired to write this music after a trip to the Rhineland with his wife. The symphony exudes the quietness and peacefulness of this journey, and also reflects on Schumann’s own observations of his life.

The disc closes with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 2, knows as “The Little Russian.” The name derives from three Ukrainian folk tunes the composer incorporated into the work, and the Ukraine at the time was knows as ‘Little Russia’.

Tchaikovsky completed the work in 1872, but spent almost a decade revising it. This recording is from 1956.

Carlo Maria Giulini, who died in 2005, was a fine conductor, always delivering somewhat surprising, but not offbeat performances. He was at home with the great symphonies and the opera.

He is in full control of the Philharmonia Orchestra here. The recordings throughout this disk sounds a bit strident in the strings, and the dynamic range is limited as compared to our modern recordings. On the other hand, I did not find the recoding offensive, but rather an excellent window into the past of the Giulini’s unique style and approach to familiar symphonic works.

This is not an audio demonstration disk, but Praga Digitals is to be congratulated for letting us here these performances in versions that surpass their original releases more than fifty years ago.

—Mel Martin

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