HINDEMITH: Concert Music, Op. 50; DVORAK: Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70; BEETHOVEN: Egmont Overture, Op. 84a – London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Carlo Maria Giulini – BBC Legends

by | Nov 27, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

HINDEMITH: Concert Music, Op. 50; DVORAK: Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70; BEETHOVEN: Egmont Overture, Op. 84a – London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Carlo Maria Giulini

BBC Legends BBCL 4194-2, 66:58 (Distrib. Koch) ****:

The BBC splices together two distinct concerts of the London Philharmonic under Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005), the Hindemith and Dvorak originating from 30 November 1969, and the Beethoven from 14 May 1975. Hindemith’s Op. 50 Concert Music often featured in Giulini’s programs in Los Angeles; like Cantelli, Giulini favored this music as a testament to his brass section’s suave line and capacity for articulated colors. More than once, the opening section, Massig schnell, mit Kraft, suggests Liszt’s C Sharp Minor Rhapsody. The second section, Lebhaft–Langsam–Im ersten Zeitmass, keeps the strings and brass quite busy, buzzing, singing, or romping in the manner of an abstract painting enjoying the dynamics of juxtaposed textures. Some of the solo brass parlando might suggest what Mahler’s Third Symphony by Giulini might have sounded like.

The most Brahmsian of the Dvorak symphonies, the D Minor Seventh (30 November 1969) , enjoys a spacious, grandly dramatic line for the Allegro maestoso, the strings and French horn ushering a demonic statement of the main theme that soon yields to a tender, countrified impulse. Poised clarity of line is the rule here, the punctuations from brass and warbling from the flute in high gloss. When the tympani enters along with the horns, we are in full throttle, the orchestral tones emanating a deep, resonant sheen. The coda has the bass line creeping up and the stretti from the strings and horns in terrific propulsion. The LPO trumpet section could be guarding the gates of Valhalla. The flute work and broken-figure statements of the first theme seem to succumb to a sense of resigned destiny. 

Other than the offbeat coughing of the audience at Royal Festival Hall, there is little to distract one’s unwavering attention to the dark-hued Poco adagio as it unfolds its luxurious song. The French horn and flute duet is pure opera: the Bohemian woods with touches of Wagner’s Forest Murmurs. Clarinet, flute, and horn and take into a bower of pantheistic bliss. The cello line purrs, with all due homage to the Brahms D Major Symphony. The Scherzo returns to that demonic swagger, the connection with the Dionysiac, of which Dvorak is capable. The trio section mesmerizes in its alchemy of flute, horn, and string evocation of Nature’s mysteries. The thunderous da capo threatens to rock us off our seats with a fury which recalls Beethoven. The Finale: Allegro begins as a quick-march with high-color flute and tormented lower strings. A dark fate motif erupts out of the mix, Giulini’s driving the line hard with fervent sweep. The gentle countermelody literally sighs a breath of fresh air into the midst of wonderful, violent struggle moving towards D Major. When the pageant ends, the audience can barely contain itself, the throes of Giulini’s vision undeniable.

Giulini often programmed Beethoven’s Egmont Overture ((14 May 1975) as a concert opener. Giulini gives the tightfisted violin melodies a strong, pesant, processional tempo; the subsequent gathering of storm clouds expand to embrace a world of political upheaval. Cataclysmic issues are at stake. Strings and tympani tumble into the depths, while the brass lifts us to heroic aspiration. Without exaggerating the histrionics, Giulini invokes Beethoven’s triumphant spirit in rousing colors.

— Gary Lemco

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