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Giulini: Beethoven – Symphonies 6 “Pastoral”, 8 & 9 (2 CD, FLAC)

Giulini: Beethoven - Symphonies 6 "Pastoral", 8 & 9 (2 CD, FLAC)
Giulini: Beethoven - Symphonies 6 "Pastoral", 8 & 9 (2 CD, FLAC)

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Orchestra: New Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Carlo Maria Giulini
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: EMI Classics
Size: 647 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

# Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”), Op. 68
Composed by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by New Philharmonia Orchestra
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini

# Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93
Composed by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by London Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini

# Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral”), Op. 125
Composed by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performed by London Symphony Orchestra
with John Shirley-Quirk, Robert Tear, Anna Reynolds, Sheila Armstrong
Conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini

Giulini’s Great “Choral”

EMI’s new “Gemini” series is a breath of fresh air amidst all the smoke being put forth recently by the major classical labels. While Sony is deleting most of their classical budget discs, BMG is raising theirs to mid-price and UNI is convinced that 3CDs are always better than one, EMI decides to start a two-fer line that sells for significantly less than the competition, not to mention their own “Double Forte” series. It might not be as cheap as the old “Seraphim” series, but they could certainly be charging more for quality recordings such as these.

Take this title featuring Carlo Maria Giulini’s accounts of Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 6, 8 & 9. (Speaking of the old “Seraphim” series, this very same 9th was offered previously on a two-disc set that also included Kempe’s Beethoven 6th & 8th, and this 8th was paired with Cluytens’ stereo account of the “Pastoral” on a single CD.) Prior to buying this title, the only performance I had not heard was Giulini’s 1968 account of the 6th with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Having only listened to it once, I haven’t had time to truly analyze it, but suffice it to say it is a solid rendition. Giulini takes us on a comfortable stroll through the countryside in the early movements and offers up the appropriate power and finesse for the thunderstorm scene. The playing is first rate, the pacing is perfect and the sound is excellent. The 1972 8th with the London Symphony I know well, and it is good account but not one of my first choice recommendations. Giulini opts for a slow pace, and while I don’t have to have something as speedy as the Scherchen (see my review of his GCOTC title), I like something a bit more in the middle than this one.

But enough about those two performances because they are basically extras here, for it is the “Choral” that deserves all the accolades. This might be a shock, but this is one of the very best recordings of Beethoven’s 9th ever made. Giulini, always a favorite with orchestra players, gets phenomenal results from the Londoners, and the singers might not be the biggest names but they are in top flight form here. The analog stereo sound is great, and while many performances get bogged down in the signature portion of the final movement (most old mono recordings and the Masur Leipzig immediately come to mind), Giulini offers it all up — strings, brass, chorus, etc. — crisp and clean. It sounds better than the Furtwangler, Fricsay, Cluytens, Monteux and Walter; is performed at a better pace than both Bohms, the Klemperer or Bernstein NY; and simply is better than most of the field. Personally, I would rank it overall slightly above treasured renditions by Reiner, Szell and Munch, and it is on par with the Karajan ’63, if not a nose ahead. I know this is a lot of praise for a performance that has not remained in print consistently for the past ten years, but buy it and see for yourself. At this price, what have you got to lose?

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