Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bruckner 8, Dvorak 8 (Giulini-Philharmonia Live 1983, 1963)

Bruckner 8, Dvorak 8 (Giulini-Philharmonia Live 1983, 1963)
FLAC+Cue+Log | Scans | 2 CD | 623 MB
Classical | BBC Legends | 2004

These live performances are all from London. The Bruckner (in its 1890 version, edited Nowak) was recorded in the Royal Festival Hall on September 18, 1983; the Dvorák is from the Royal Albert Hall on August 8, 1963; and the Festival Hall Rossini is from November 25, 1963. This generous compilation offers concert performances 20 years apart, either side of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s “New” phase, from a conductor that had a long and distinguished association with the orchestra. Giulini, now retired, celebrated his 90th birthday in May 2004.

Giulini’s conception of Bruckner’s mighty Symphony No. 8 is, as might be expected, on a large and searching scale. This is an enthralling rendition (one preferable to his DG recording with the Vienna Philharmonic), one that has haunted this writer since the concert and which, two decades later, seems every bit as imposing and transporting as memory suggested. Giulini’s engrossing account is wholly organic. In the closing bars of the first movement, the ticking clock really does stop when the conductor, as Giulini does, resists even the merest suggestion of a ritardando. The scherzo may not go like a train, but its very trenchancy builds up a fine head of steam, the trio bringing a temperate contrast. Throughout, there’s a focus on the music’s expressional reach and singular beauty that is the result of intensive study, painstaking preparation, and something not far short of “Holy Communion” between conductor and composer, and between conductor and orchestra. The slow movement is intensely articulate, and Giulini builds the finale to transcendent release. Excellent stereo sound re-mastered by Tony Faulkner.

BBC Legends has previously released a radiant Giulini Philharmonia Orchestra Bruckner Symphony No. 7 (BBCL 4123-2), exceptional, and now issues this ecstatic account of No. 8; similarly, it is a mandatory purchase.

The Dvorák, from the 1963 Proms, is also in stereo; it’s a lyrical and fiery account, with thrilling passion and urgency alongside the most eloquent phrasing and sensitive balances; a real concert performance, one that followed by 18 months this conductor’s and orchestra’s studio recording for Columbia/EMI. This live account sounds very good, too; and writing as someone who is very susceptible to digital re-mastering that intercedes into music’s “real” tones—with tell-tale murkiness in bass and pianissimo passages and “watery”-sounding woodwinds, etc.—it is very gratifying to hear Faulkner’s expertise here. His transfer hasn’t soured or bolstered the timbres; what we have is as honest as the performance itself, which is delightfully melodious and vividly detailed.

The Rossini (in mono) is crisply dramatic and closes this pair of CDs (just as it did this particular 1963 concert) with a carefully crafted and bewitching texture of sound and exuberance.

Colin Anderson, FANFARE

Bruckner - Symphony No.8 in C minor (Nowak)
Dvorak - Symphony No.8 in G major, Op.88
Rossini - Semiramide Overture
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7


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