Very old-school Haydn, but a gem of its kind
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 12/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, as the previous reviewer says, this is high-Romantic Haydn, but that term shouldn't imply sluggishness. Giulini gives a reading that expresses joy despite the touch of stateliness. At traditional tempos that Furtwangler and Klemperer would recognize, Giulini manages to be more buoyant and lively than eihtr. The recording is good broadcast stereo from 1979, although I was somewhat bothered by the hall resonance. Incidentally, Giulini ignors the "Surprise" sobriquet and plays the famous forte chords as if they belong to the flow of the slow movement. That may sound odd, but frankly, I enjoyed the music more -- aren't we over the joke by now? The finale by no mans races away, yet it's full of high spirits. This is a great Haydn no. 94.
Giulini made some acclaimed Debussy-Ravel recordings for EMI early on. I could go a lifetime without hearing the Ma Mere l'Oye Suite again, but this is a lively, forthright, beautifully balanced reading that never minces or swoons -- I don't find it Germanic at all.
Rich, Romantic Giulini Readings
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 05/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Carlo Maria Giulini was a perfectionist who, for a major conductor, had a fairly small repertoire which he honed to a high finish. Such is the case here with two works not generally associated with him. The CD comes from a radio broadcast of January 1979, which probably explains why it has a timing of only 43:23. These are burnished readings but neither is what would now be considered historically apt performances. The Haydn is superbly played by the Bayerische Rundfunk, but this is a big orchestra performance. Add to that Giulini's use of moderate tempi, rich strings and fairly narrow dynamics and you have a genial high-romantic 'Surprise' Symphony. Lovely, but not a first choice I should think.
The Ravel 'Mother Goose' Suite does rather better. Giulini was not especially noted for his Ravel and certainly he didn't give French-sounding readings of anything (although his recording with the Philharmonia of 'Pavane for a Dead Princess' is one of the best around). This, again, is a rich reading, missing the last measure of Ravelian clarity. But the phrasing and tempi strike me as just right, even though it definitely sounds like a German orchestra (which of course it is).
I've always been a fervent admirer of Giulini and have generally been pleased with anything of his I've encountered if only because he was such a perfectionistic musician who worked until he got precisely what he wanted from the orchestra. He does that here, but purists might well object. I frankly have liked the recordings, particularly of the Ravel, more each time I've listened.