TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 “Little Russian”; Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32; Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathetique”; Romeo and Juliet–Fantasy Overture – Philharmonia/Carlo Maria Giulini – EMI Classics

by | Jul 2, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 “Little
Russian”; Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32; Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op.
74 “Pathetique”; Romeo and Juliet–Fantasy Overture – Carlo Maria
Giulini/Philharmonia Orchestra –
EMI Classics 5 86531 (2 CDs) 56:05; 67:12 ****:

The death of Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005) on Tuesday June 14 in
Brescia, Italy robbed this world of one of the last great Romantic
conductors, an astonishingly humble man who thoroughly enjoyed
music-making with every ensemble he ever led. His fluid and poetic
style of musical performance often suggested a spiritual kinship to
Wilhelm Furtwaengler and Vittorio de Sabata, as well as other acolytes
of a more leisurely, urbane standard of performance than what we hear
today. This EMI all-Tchaikovsky set, inscribed 1956-1962 with a
responsive Philharmonia Orchestra of London, speaks directly to those
aspects of energy and lithe poetry that consistently marked Giulini’s
interpretations.

The 1873 Symphony No. 2 of Tchaikovsky has been a nervous favorite of
mine ever since I first owned the Eugene Goossens version on Camden LP
under the dubious rubric of “Cromwell Symphony Orchestra.”
Giulini’s1956 excursion into the Ukraine has this early Tchaikovsky
opus well in hand, urging it forward, yet allowing its woodwind graces
(as in the Trio of the Scherzo) a balletic lattitude that softens the
symphony’s often martial character. The last movement, with its clarion
statement of The Crane folksong, carries the sparkling momentum Giulini
could find anywhere, even in the coils of a Bruckner symphony. 
The blazing coda is as superheated a rendition of Tchaikovsky as
anything recorded by Albert Coates.

I had not known Giulini’s 1962 Francesca da Rimini prior to this
reissue. I find the performance quite compelling, with the
Philharmonia’s string and brass sections effecting the Dantesque
whirlwinds and passionate laments with ardent conviction – qualities no
less and perhaps even more in evidence in 1959 Pathetique, whose Adagio
lamentoso simply sears with exalted melancholy. The Romeo and Juliet
(1962) is more literal and tensely prosaic in temper than the arch
Romantics like Bernstein and Celibidache, with their stretching of the
musical line like a band of licorice. Intellect and high drama is in
sober abundance here, as Giulini accords Tchaikovsky musical poise,
passion, and athletic ferocity worthy of fellow Romantics Stokowski and
Mitropoulos.

–Gary Lemco

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