Carlo Maria Giulini has managed to confound the critics throughout his career. Just as they thought they could pigeonhole him he would go in a totally different direction. From Italian opera to Britten or Franck to Bruckner. Giulini has given us very fine recordings of the 7th , 8th and 9th symphonies but his first recorded Bruckner was far from a safe choice. It is this recording from 1975 of the rarely played then , and even now, 2nd Symphony for EMI using the 1877 version edited by Leopold Nowak. Far too many performances of this work seem tentative as if the conductor is not quite sure what to make of it. Giulini does not have that problem finding a nobility and vitality in this work that makes no excuses for it and puts it on par with Bruckner's later works. Testament, under license from EMI, is owed a hearty thank for restoring this recording to circulation. It was deleted rather fast in the 1970's when most listeners then found it hard to associate Giulini and Bruckner. That barrier was broken by his subsequent Bruckner recordings. Hopefully listeners will now discover this forgotten gem.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
One of the greatest Bruckner interpretationsJune 16 2005
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My first reaction to hearing this disc was "Someone opened the windows and let the fresh air into this symphony." Corrupt text and all, this performance is absolutely gorgeous from beginning to end. The analogue sound is beatiful and rich, allowing us to hear every note of Bruckner's orchestration (particularly the winds, which emerge with astonishing clarity throughout the performance). The cellos' rendition of the second theme of the first movement is particularly beautiful. The scherzo is exciting, and the finale exultant. No matter how many interpretations of Bruckner symphonies you own, you need to add this one to your collection (and while you're at it, add Giulini's DGG performances of the Eighth and Ninth). You'll never hear more enjoyable Bruckner.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Fine but flawedJune 20 2007
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I do not like to read great, lengthy novels that have been abridged, nor do I like to listen to great lengthy symphonies that have been cut. This is what you get with this acclaimed recording. Giulini uses the 1877[Nowak Edition]version of this most lyrical of symphonies. and subsequently too many beautiful moments are lost, particularly in the finale. [Remember, that Bruckner was greatly disturbed by the contemporary reaction to the symphony].The Schubertian elements of this lovely work are downplayed,too, making this interpretation sound like a later Bruckner work. Sure, the orchestra playing is impressive, the conducting is impressive, and the sound quality is more than acceptable, but not as impressive. To return to the caveat, to hear this symphony in all its glory look no further than to Tintner on Naxos. It is cheaper, has better sound, distinguished conducting, and you get to hear the whole work, as it was intended. Compare the timing: Over 71 minutes for the Tintner, and a tad over 58 for the Giulini. If you are in a hurry, then the Giulini fits the bill. Otherwise look to Tintner.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
THE 2ND IS A SYMPHONIC MASTERPIECENov. 13 2006
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First before reviewing the performance I am wholly obliged to note the exceptional quality of Bruckner's mighty symphony 2 in C minor. This key often denotes fate and deep melancholy, yet in this work there is not a trace of demoralized sadness, instead it seems to tell of mighty happenings in the present and to come, indeed I thought of the apocalypse in certain passages, and remembered the 8th in C minor also contains a prophetic tiding. Often thought of as more subtle and benign than its predecessor the 1st also in C minor, this symphony is just as exciting and well written. The themes are so plentiful and perfect illustrations of Bruckner's melodic genius that one is hard pressed to not appreciate it as much as the other great symphonies. Indeed the more I hear this work the more it has grown on me and its character and beauty of structure and content becomes even more apparent. Another wonderful quality of Bruckner's 2nd are its links both thematically and orchestrationally to the classical era, as well as Schubert and Beethoven. One could go on for lines lauding this work of art. Suffice it to say this symphony is just as wonderful to listen to as the 8th, 1st, or 4th. Now for the performance.
Guilini has conducted a splendid performance. The scherzo never sounded so expansive and exciting. However in comparison with other performances it is hard to find a favorite, they all impart their own virtues. Guilini seems to give this performance and larger canvas, as if he was conducting the 9th, this comes out splendidly in the scherzo and finale. Overall the acoustics and instrumental clarity in each section of the orchestra is satisfactory, perhaps the timpani could have been a little more noticable. Do not miss this performance, for two reasons:
1. Guilini and the orchestra perform beautifully
2. Bruckner's symphony 2 is a treasure one cannot do without
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
SurprisingApril 5 2010
Please hold the line while we try to connect you... the number you are calling knows you are waiting.
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For a master Brucknerian such as Giulini, this performance is rather un-Brucknerian. It is still expertly honed and crafted making it more than competitive with rivals such as Tintner and Karajan. The VSO is in fine form and plays exceptionally in spite of its 'second rank' status. The ADD sound is good and the interpretation is convincing.
Performance: 5/5 This, for the most part, is exemplary. There are one or two areas where the orchestra is apparently strained but they always emerge triumphant in the face of tricky passages. The playing overall is highly pleasing, warm and surprisingly virtuosic. Regarding the competition, the orchestra sounds finer than Tintner's while perhaps not quite matching Karajan's superlative BPO.
Listen to those brasses. They play almost completely without coarseness. This may, for some, rob Bruckner's brass writing of some of its traditional character but it is doubtful you will resist its seductive warmth. They have a precision in elocution that can't be faulted. The woodwinds also put on a fine display though, at one juncture, a clarinet squeaks unbecomingly. Luckily this is a minor fault and occurs only once and certainly doesn't warrant the loss of a star. The strings play their part well, particularly the warm and expressive cellos and violas who are so important in this work.
Overall, the orchestra shows itself capable of homogeneity and individual intimacy. The freedom of expression that Giulini allows is warmly rewarded and the sense is apparently of playing for him.
Sound: 5/5 This record has been given eminently satisfying sound. This permits the radiance of this performance to shine in all its magnificence and has little robbed from it by poor engineering.
The quality is warm and full and has a pleasant reverberation with a reasonable amount of 'air'. Also, and quite unusually for the early '70s, the sound benefits from a startling extension towards the bass which delivers the double-basses and timpani in powerful precision. Throw in the extensive dynamic range and the full package is delivered.
The single caveat is that, at load passages, the recording lends itself to a crude brittleness but its merely suggestive and there is worse that can blight a recording. Remember, this is the '70s and that the overall recorded sound is exceptional so don't let this incidental put you off.
Interpretation: 5/5 Giulini leads with an excellent assuredness which is reciprocated by a faithfulness from the orchestra. Surprisingly, what springs to mind here is quite an un-Brucknerian impression of Giulin's soundscapes.
Giulini throws light on the important cellos and violas and these form the bedrock core of this sturdy conception. Through these, Giulini channels a tenderness that the orchestra responds affectionately to. In fact, the overall interpretation is quite gentle for a Bruckner symphony. Don't be put off, though, as Giulini retains the grand sweep of this work. The big point is, there are few uncomfortable corners in this performance and the famous pauses don't undermine the creative flow. Actually, the pauses are made to contribute to the overall pulse of the symphony.
Giulini's gentle manner often conveys a Mendelssohnian quality to the soundscape, especially when the winds are given centre stage. The darker moments of the first and second movements display something of the desolation described in Mendelssohn's own 3rd Symphony.
From the outset, Giulini is successful at setting the tone for the rest of the Symphony with a particularly tender and emotive view of the first movement's main theme - note the atmospheric rallentando and diminuendo in the last bar of the subject where the cello is left to sing lonesome and yearning notes. Giulini's treatment of the third movement is also very revealing. After a particularly plush and felt trio illuminated by a tender twilight glow, the scherzo is built up slowly again as to allow the trio's moment to be savoured. The full power of the scherzo's theme is not realised again for a good number bars and its delightful example for Giulin's perceptive control of the moment. This is not superficial stuff.
The finale has been conveyed in a demonic manner, a la Tintner, or in an air of pomp and circumstance, a la Karajan. Giulini gives us a middle way between the two and, while Karajan and Tintner play up the main theme more, (Tintner is using a very different finale, of course, which restores some of the best music to the finale making his record first choice) he continues the tenderness that creates the proper closure to his conception - and what an interpretation it is! The coda gloriously blazing to its climax.
To conclude, this may not be the most Brucknerian Bruckner 2, it remains an exceptional record worthy of full marks. Giulini allows the musical lines to meander and tenderly develop in a satisfying and convincing fashion. I find myself using a similar analogy that that Richard Osborne used in comparing Karajan's and Giulini's Bruckner 8ths; while Karajan's Bruckner burns fiery reds like the setting sun, Giulini's Bruckner glows warmly, like polished marble glinting in that sunset.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Guilini's Bruckner 2 is SublimeNov. 8 2006
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When listening to this performance of the 2nd Symphony, I inately sense that there could be no better interpretation. No exaggeration, yet powerfully emotive and moving. This recording makes me love this early Bruckner symphony on a par with the massive 8th and 9th. Guilini brings the perfect subtlety, emotion, and phrasing detail without the slightest affectation. It combines a slow tempo and softness, yet at the same time, has power, authority, and drama. The slow movement is so heartfelt it's difficult for me not to shed a tear, even while listening in the car on a busy freeway. The playing and ensemble is excellent, sound quality very good 70s engineering, with perhaps a slight lack of dynamic range in the crescendos (very minor drawback). This performance is a great alternative to more aggressive and quicker performances, such as Wand's, which is an equally exciting way to do this symphony. But this Guilini/VSO performance is very exciting Bruckner.