Oh boy do these recordings bring back aural memories!
This was the era when I began to develop a voracious appetite for classical music. Everything was new to me, and my tastes were driven by reviews in Stereo Review and High Fidelity (The Gramophone came my life several years later, as my tastes - and acquisitions - became bit more sophisticated).
I love them all - to the point where I re-purchased several of them during that time, when EMI introduced it's ill-fated (and realistically doomed) 45 rpm ('audiophile" pressings of at least two - the Mahler 1 and The Firebird. I seem to recall that the surface noise and warpage of the 45 rpm vinyl obliterated nearly all of the "audiophile" sonic improvements of the time.
The same, of course, can not be said of this set. The sound quality goes beyond anything possible those few decades - particularly now that digital reproduction can convery string tone without the harshness of the early digital era.
Giulini's interpretaions remain benchmark performances (I claim definative status for very few performances - maybe Toscanini's 1937 recording of Beethoven's Seventh with the NYP!) The Mahler and Stravinsky still give me goosebumps, and the Bruckner remains - in my opinion - in a class by itself.
I feel Giulini brought something very special and unique to these works. I just remember listening to the original LPs (of the Mahler and Bruckner) in my darkened room and being transported. The Firebird was simply ravishing to me.
It's odd how lovers of music always argue "the best" interpretation, or the "top tier" of conductors. Regardless - either case does not always translate into popularity with the public at large. I don't understand why it's necessary to disparage Giulini's work in terms of what he could have accomplished, rather than celebrate what he did accomplish. And for me, this box documents some very amazing accomplishments indeed (particularly if you contrast them with the CSO's recordings under Solti's baton made during the same period).
EMI got this release right! Let's hope they release similar historic recordings outside of their "Recordings Of The Century" series.