Notes and Editorial Reviews
At 53 minutes, Carlo Maria Giulini's Los Angeles Brahms First Symphony from the early 1980s may require more listening time than most other recorded versions--yet it never drags for a second, and it beckons your attention in every bar. The broadly phrased first-movement introduction conveys extraordinary power and tension, while the conductor's astute attention to orchestral balance and accurate note values imparts a genuinely forward-moving impetus and inner rhythm that justifies his moderate interpretation of Brahms' Allegro directive, as well as his observing the long exposition repeat. Here and throughout the symphony the composer's espressivo passages elicit ritards and other tempo
modifications that Giulini doles out in careful proportions.
Two examples aptly demonstrate Giulini's ability to keep the music's contrapuntal strands alive and meaningful without the least contrivance. One is in the Andante sostenuto, where a genuine dialogue emerges between the horns and the solo violin. Another revelation occurs in the third movement's opening section as Giulini's chamber-like delineation of textures allows the main melodies and inner voices to gently yet pointedly converse, rather than interact in a fog.
The final movement especially showcases the Los Angeles Philharmonic's uniformly beautiful, dynamically contrasted, committed playing, from the marvelously varied string sonorities (yes, even in the tricky pizzicato accelerandos) to the magnificent, full-throated brass playing in the coda. Integrity, passion, and deep musical intelligence define this classic, splendidly engineered Brahms First, which unquestionably surpasses Giulini's enervated remake with the Vienna Philharmonic (also on DG). Kudos to Arkivmusic.com's on-demand CD reissue program for making it available again.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Carlo Maria Giulini
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1855-1876; Austria
Length: 53 Minutes 1 Secs.
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