At last. The 1959 Giulini Don Giovanni has been digitally remastered and made available on CD. Philip Hope-Wallace, reviewing the original release, thought that it was worth a year at a foreign university. Well, I don't know if I'd go that far; but it is extremely difficult to choose between this and the Davis performance on Philips for non-stop momentum born of deep understanding of the musical expression of character and dramatic motivation.
There is no doubt that the orchestral playing here is unsurpassed. From the depth and precision of the opening chords to the fugitive spirit of dance which no one else quite captures, the Philharmonia under Giulini become a second cast on their own. So often the tiniest detail—theRead more weight of a chord, the length of a silence, the linking curve of a phrase, the parting of the inner voices of the strings—stage-manages the drama more shrewdly than a good many theatre directors ever do. That having been said, I find Davis's pacing marginally more exciting. Giulini does, one feels, occasionally hold back to allow a voice its moment of glory; and the Act I finale hasn't quite that thrilling inexorability as the dance hurtles from form to chaos.
The presence of Dame Joan Sutherland does have its drawbacks as well as its glory. Her Donna Anna is never quite a "furia disperata"; the comparative weakness of her lower register and her lack of real impulse in phrasing make her as weak a match for Schwarzkopf's Elvira as Te Kanawa's Elvira is for Arroyo's superb Anna for Davis. Only Haitink on EMI, it seems, with Vaness and Ewing, has a pair equally matched, at least in dramatic credibility: Glyndebourne's team casting is, of course, its great strength.
Schwarzkopf's Elvira, together with the orchestral playing, is the glory of this Don Giovanni. Listen to their relationship in "In quali eccessi": it could hardly be more potent, more intensely Mozartian. She understands the rhythmic and melodic psychology of her every second on stage. So does this Don Giovanni: though Waechter's thrusting physicality and diabolic laughter leave us just short of the sheer fascination of Wixell's hunter (Davis) or Allen's chilling seducer (Haitink).
The casting of the smaller parts doesn't make for such vibrant theatre as in either Davis or Haitink; but the care originally lavished on the production by Walter Legge is celebrated in remastering which cuts out glare and distortion, while losing none of the depth and perspective which belong uniquely to Giulini's reading.
Don Giovanni, K 527by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Performer:
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano),
Graziella Sciutti (Soprano),
Gottlob Frick (Bass),
Piero Cappuccilli (Baritone),
Eberhard Wächter (Baritone),
Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano),
Luigi Alva (Tenor),
Giuseppe Taddei (Baritone)
Carlo Maria Giulini
Period: Classical Written: 1787; Prague Date of Recording: 1959 Venue: EMI Abbey Road Studios, London
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Still the very best.February 11, 2014By Stephen Marmer (Los Angeles, CA)See All My Reviews"I love this opera. I have heard it live in numerous performances with Thomas Allen, Rodney Gilfrey, Samuel Ramey, and others as the Don. I have more than a dozen CD versions, among which I particularly like Demetri Metropolis take. I also have many pre-war versions, and two with Bruno Walter are beyond compare. (Unfortunately the most exciting one is a radio transcription from 1937-8 that is exciting beyond compare but very difficult to listen to.) But time after time I come back to this recording. Giulini has captured the essence of the opera, its comic and its tragic aspects, and has gotten beautiful performances out of the orchestra and the singers. If the house were burning down, this would be among the first CDs I would run in to rescue."Report Abuse
I Got Goosebumps! November 29, 2011By Christian Withers (San Antonio, TX)See All My Reviews"Possibly the best recording of Mozart's greatest opera, with a climax that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck! I have an earlier issue of this, but I'm sure this one sounds just as good (reissues usually improve or at least maintain sound quality). Get it at this price while you can!"Report Abuse