Carlo Maria Giulini / Wiener Symphoniker

Bruckner: Symphony No. 2

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In 1974, Carlo Maria Giulini and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra recorded Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 2 in C minor for EMI, an unusual selection for the time but one the conductor had chosen among a number of core works he wished to interpret with this orchestra. This legendary performance has appeared on Testament, but here it is reissued on the Vienna Symphony's own label in celebration of Giulini's centennial, undoubtedly because it is one of the orchestra's finest performances with a conductor revered for his humility and devotion to the music. The Symphony No. 2 is one of Bruckner's formative works and doesn't yet reveal his mature personality, but Giulini treats it as a major statement, infusing it with energy and passion and inspiring the musicians to play with full commitment. The pacing of the first two movements is on the slow side, but the tempos let Giulini treat the themes with a long-breathed lyricism reminiscent of Schubert. The tempos of the Scherzo and the Finale are moderately fast, having sufficient speed to move the music forward, but they seem all of a piece with the rest of the symphony, particularly in their moments of gentle songfulness. This is one of the best engineered Bruckner recordings of the time, so the recording is focused and clear, and the details of the inner parts are easily heard.

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