Bruckner: Symphony No. 7

Carlo Maria Giulini / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Wiener Philharmoniker

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Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Because of his many years of experience directing the Berlin Philharmonic, and his determination only to record works when he felt his understanding of them had fully matured, Carlo Maria Giulini became esteemed in the 1970s and '80s as a conductor one could turn to for practically any repertoire, whether it was Classical, Romantic, or modern. His thoughtful interpretations made him an ideal choice for recording the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, a composer often misunderstood for the many versions of his symphonies and for the eccentricities in his music that seemed to defy logic. Giulini was able to bring a calmness and coherence to Bruckner's music that made it approachable and earned him a reputation as a leading Brucknerian conductor, despite having few actual recordings of the symphonies available. This live concert recording of the Symphony No. 7 in E major is a valuable document of Giulini's work, and since this performance was recorded at the Philharmonie, the orchestra's own concert hall, it has just about all the right ingredients working for it: a world-class orchestra playing a work it had played countless times before, in an acoustic setting it knew intimately, and under a conductor who had the respect of all present. By any standard, this is an exceptional interpretation of the symphony, and its clarity and cogency admirably serve Bruckner. Testament's digitally remastered sound is incredibly focused and detailed, which is a boon for picking up even the softest instruments in the orchestra, such as the often drowned-out flute, but also a bane for capturing every instance of the conductor's humming, which is a serious liability throughout the recording. Still, this will not be a stumbling block for devoted Bruckner fans who will relish the many wonderful nuances and sonorities Giulini drew out of his musicians and appreciate the intelligence that guided this performance.

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