BRUCKNER Symphony No 2 – Giulini
‘Perhaps the greatest of all recordings of the work‚ spacious‚ involved‚ profoundly human’: so wrote Richard Osborne in 1994‚ referring to Carlo Maria Giulini’s EMI recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No 2Ê–Êthen unavailableÊ–Êwhile surveying the thencurrent alternatives in a review of the Chailly/Concertgebouw version on Decca (3/94).
Hearing this digital remastering‚ by Paul Baily‚ of the 1974 EMI original (producer Christopher Bishop‚ Tonmeister Christopher Parker) confirms the sober truth of Osborne’s words. So persuasive is Giulini’s interpretation‚ it makes it almost impossible to take seriously the attempt at a more detached‚ monumental approach found in Daniel Barenboim’s relatively recent Teldec performance (12/98). Giulini’s ability to convey fervour without sentimentality is little short of miraculous‚ and it is clear from the way the early stages of the first movement effortlessly project an ideal balance between the lyrical and the dramatic that this reading will be exceptional. The recording might not have the dynamic range of current digital issues‚ and resonance can sound rather artificial in louder passages. There’s also an obtrusive extension of the trumpet triplets seven bars before the end of the first movement. But such things count for less than nothing in the face of a performance which culminates in a finale of such glowing spontaneity you could almost believe that the orchestra are playing it for the first time‚ and that neither they (nor any other orchestra) will ever play it better.
Richard Osborne provides exemplary annotation‚ filling in the background to the recording itself‚ as well as to Giulini’s attitude to Bruckner. A fuller and more authentic text of the symphony is available at superbargain price in Georg Tintner’s fine account of the 1872 edition. Tintner’s version lasts 13 minutes longer than Giulini’s‚ and serious collectors certainly need both. Yet the last thing you are likely to feel after hearing Giulini is that there is something inauthentic about this Bruckner. Matters musicological fade to vanishing point‚ given such communicative genius.