Carlo Maria Giulini

Busoni: Sarabande & Cortège; Franck: Psyché et Eros

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Profil's Ferruccio Busoni -- Cesar Franck -- Antonín Dvorák -- Carlo Maria Giulini comes from its series WDR -- The Cologne Broadcasts, which highlights recordings from the vaults of the WDR in Cologne featuring the radio networks' own, top-flight orchestra. In this case, two guest conducting shots from late maestro Carlo Maria Giulini are heard; the Busoni and Franck come from two 1971 concerts in generally excellent sound, and the Dvorák Eighth symphony in a stable 1958 recording that begins rather narrowly but seems to widen out. Whether this is stereo or mono they do not say, but it sounds like it could be, at least in part, in some early form of stereo; perhaps it is patched together out of stereo and mono recordings. Giulini never recorded the Busoni (the Two Sketches on Doktor Faust, Op. 51), nor the Franck ("Psyche et Eros" from the long symphonic poem Psyche) in a studio outing. However, he did record the Dvorák Eighth in studio recordings at least three times, and there is already a live version from 1963 on the BBC Legends imprint. His attention to the piece was justified, as Giulini's Dvorák Eighth can be almost unbearably intense and emotive -- this 1958 version doesn't quite catch fire, but it comes close at times and is a very solid, even admirable, performance of the piece. The Sarabande in the Busoni is much slower than usual and the "Cortège" a bit more up-tempo -- not for Giulini the standard, Apollonian approach to Busoni's orchestral music, but he treats it as if it were post-Romantic music, and as a result the "Cortège" packs a wallop. The "Psyche et Eros" is very good; quite languid and heavily stylized as though Giulini were conducting Wagnerian opera rather than just César Franck.

Giulini enjoyed a very long conducting career that involved many recordings, a bit too many for his work to be understood in a comprehensive way so soon after his passing. Nevertheless, this Profil release Ferruccio Busoni -- Cesar Franck -- Antonín Dvorák -- Carlo Maria Giulini does expose us to some of the things that Giulini delved into outside his rather limited central repertoire, along with an additional traversal through one of his main warhorses, the result making for satisfying, if not enthralling, listening.

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