They don't make recordings of Brahms' Fourths like this 1970 performance by Carlo Maria Giulini and the Chicago Symphony anymore. The reason for this is that there are very, very few conductors of Giulini's stature making recordings anymore. Brahms' Fourth is the most passionately pessimistic and the most inexorably despairing symphony of the nineteenth century and few conductors before Giulini, very few conductors after Giulini, and very, very few contemporary conductors have the essential honesty and necessary strength to realize it in performance. But Giulini has both the honesty and strength and his performance gazes into the abyss of Brahms' bitter nihilism and does not flinch. With the superlative playing of the Chicago Symphony at the peak of post-Reiner power, Giulini has created a Fourth that stands as a reproach to any conductor who lacks the honesty and strength to realize the malevolent magnificence of Brahms' Fourth. The inclusion of Giulini's 1964 recording of Brahms' Tragic Overture and 1962 recording of his Variations on a Theme by Haydn with the Philharmonia are apt fillers, but the real reason to get this disc is to test your own honesty and strength against Giulini's Brahms' Fourth. EMI's remastered stereo sound is gorgeous, gargantuan, and altogether glorious, if not always altogether clean.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Variations on a Theme of Haydn for orchestra in B flat major (St. Anthony Variations), Op. 56a|
|Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Carlo Maria Giulini: A profile, commentary with musical examples|