Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 8.
The Three-Cornered Hat:
Piano Concerto No. 13
Carlo Maria Giulini, cond;
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (pn); Milan RAI Milan SO;
Rome RAI SO
ARCHIPEL 449, mono (70:38) Live: Milan
Archipel continues to provide much valuable material from 1950s Italian radio archives that is, so far as I can tell, new to CD (in this case, I’ve come across the Mozart before, but not the Dvo?ák and Falla). While the label’s documentation practices leave something to be desired, their radio sources are typically good—though often (as here) transferred at a very high level, with (by the sound of things) little or no further attempt at restoration. Tuttis can be a little coarse and overblown, especially in the first movement of the Dvo?ák; otherwise, with a little volume reduction the performances emerge with impressive fidelity.
The Dvo?ák and Falla derive from a live concert, and are vintage examples of the young Giulini on his home turf. Dvo?ák’s Eighth was a Giulini specialty, with another early live version, from Cologne in 1958, available on Profil, as well as three subsequent studio accounts with the Philharmonia (EMI, 1962), Chicago Symphony (DG, 1978), and Concertgebouw (Sony, 1990). This 1959 Milan performance has a lot going for it—thrilling panache, edge-of-seat excitement, fiery drama, singing flexibility, and total commitment from an orchestra that Giulini clearly inspired to play far beyond its usual level of accomplishment. My only reservation is that, in the finale, he omits all the binary repeats from the
reprise of the theme and its subsequent variations (Rehearsal N ff.)—regrettably, since it alters the proportions of the movement and undermines the passage’s exquisitely lingering mood of enchanted twilight glow. The Cologne version (for radio, without audience) similarly excises the repeats, but the later studio recordings all include them. Otherwise Cologne is similar in conception to Milan, more smoothly played and better recorded, but less viscerally exciting. The EMI and DG recordings are richly songful, highly nuanced, and luxuriant, though pointed and alert. The late Sony version is certainly dispatched
but its extremely leisurely approach rather eviscerates vitality.
The Falla is the only Giulini version I know to include all three dances (there is a live Philharmonia performance from 1963 of the first two only, on BBC Legends). They are idiomatic, fiery, and extremely exciting. The orchestra is evidently not completely familiar with the score, but the members play their hearts out for Giulini.
The new edition of the Mozart concerto dramatically improves on an old one on the Frequenz label, which was a disaster—dull, lifeless, and a semitone flat. As for the performance, it’s the usual intriguing catalog of Michelangeli’s virtues and vices—the marbled splendor of tone and phenomenal poise of articulation; on the other hand, the affliction of much of the first movement by that equally familiar stern, unyielding
reminding us that Michelangeli could be (or was hell-bent on being) the least lovable of pianists. The old-fashioned machine-like execution of trills now sounds merely quaint (his brutal assault on the trills in the first solo entrance does not bode well!). Conversely, the slow movement is a miracle of plastic shaping and exquisitely shaded nuance, and the finale, while not exactly playful, has the requisite light touch, and some stunningly beautiful playing in the C-Minor
episodes. Giulini’s conducting is superbly animated and songful. For all its eccentricities, I find this performance preferable to Michelangeli’s others of this concerto: A 1953 EMI version with Caracciolo is slower and more relaxed in all three movements, but also comparatively subdued and studio-bound. A late (1990) DG recording with Cord Garben is stiff and sluggish in execution—although the interpretation itself has changed remarkably little in 40 years. According to my trusty catalog of my collection I also possess another live version from 1953, with Rossi, but to my chagrin I’m damned if I can lay my hands on it, so I can’t comment on it. (I hate it when that happens—as someone once said, if you can’t find it, you effectively don’t own it!)
All in all, a marvelous addition to Giulini’s early discography, and highly recommended.
FANFARE: Boyd Pomeroy
Works on This Recording
El sombrero de tres picos: Suite no 2 by Manuel de Falla
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1919; Spain
Date of Recording: 04/03/1959
Length: 12 Minutes 5 Secs.
Symphony no 8 in G major, Op. 88/B 163 by Antonín Dvorák
Written: 1889; Bohemia
Date of Recording: 04/03/1959
Length: 33 Minutes 24 Secs.
Concerto for Piano no 13 in C major, K 415 (387b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Piano)
Written: 1782-1783; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 02/15/1951
Length: 24 Minutes 21 Secs.
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