BBC Legends BBCL 4175-2, 76:13 (Distrib. Koch) ****:
Expressive warmth and thorough relaxation in music-making were the hallmarks of Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005), noted for his generosity of spirit and professional courtesy with ensembles. The Mozart “Linz” Symphony (19 July 1982) shared a Promenade Concert program with the Bruckner Symphony No. 7 (BBCL 4123). Conductor David Randolph calls Giulini “so self-effacing as to wish not to be paid for conducting, so honored was he to be in front of an orchestra.” Combining suavity and sinew, Giulini manages a plastic rendition of Mozart’s lyrical symphony, one of the few Viennese classics in Guilini’s repertory. The second movement Andante not only sings, but it exerts a gently martial character suggestive of Schubert. The Menuetto possesses an aristocratic leisure, highly inflected in the manner of an Austrian laendler. The Presto enjoys rounded phrases and delicate texturing, Mozart’s rapturous individual lines and lean counterpoint bristling with graceful excitement.
Brahms was a composer dear to Giulini’s heart and temperament, his having worked with conductors Furtwaengler and De Sabata in this music while serving as a violinist in the Saint Augusteo Orchestra in Milan. Collectors are likely familiar with the C Minor Symphony Giulini inscribed with Los Angeles Philharmonic for DGG. The present BBC performances dates from an Edinburgh concert 6 September 1962. Both massive and tenderly persuasive, the performance seems as much attuned to the composer’s strategic use of silence as it is of sound. The tenor of the realization is German enough, and had I not known that Giulini is at the helm of a British ensemble, I might venture that I were hearing the athletic style of Rudolf Kempe. The concept’s breadth, however, pushes the comparison more to the Herculean levels of Klemperer, Jochum, and Furtwaengler. By the time we enter the recapitulation of the first movement, Giulini’s has both his orchestra and you well in hand. The Philharmonia players certainly rise to expressive heights for the interior movements. The Un poco sustenuto section of the Finale takes us deep into the Black Forest before opening up for a magisterial presentation of the chorale theme. The working out of the figurations has something of the composer’s Academic Festival Overture until the mighty peroration sets in, an explosion of valedictory mysticism. It is likely safe to say that the Philharmonia had not elicited such loving energy for an Italian conductor since Toscanini’s visit in the early 1950s.