June 16, 2005 12:35 PM   Subscribe

San Carlo of the Symphony. Il Maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, orchestra conductor who passed away Tuesday at 91 "had an almost uncanny ability to transform the sound of an orchestra, any orchestra, into a dark and intense glow, which became his trademark over the years". "We have lost one of the greatest musicians of our time," says Esa-Pekka Salonen (.pdf), music director of the LA Philharmonic. Giulini has been called "the last humanist", a gentle man beloved by his orchestras, so humble in his approach to music that, always feeling the necessity to "fathom" each new work, it wasn't until the 1960s that he finally felt ready to conduct Bach, or the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. This from a man who, at the beginning of his career (as a viola player) had played under Richard Strauss. "I had the great privilege to be a member of an orchestra," Giulini said in 1982. "I still belong to the body of the orchestra. When I hear the phrase, 'The orchestra is an instrument,' I get mad. It's a group of human beings who play instruments." More inside.
posted by matteo (11 comments total)
The Los Angeles Times' 10 most memorable recordings by Giulini:

• Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"). Vienna Symphony. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano. (Deutsche Grammophon)

• Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica")/Schumann: "Manfred" Overture. Los Angeles Philharmonic. (Deutsche Grammophon)

• Brahms: Symphony No. 4. Chicago Symphony. (EMI)

• Dvorak: Symphony No. 9/Schubert: Symphony No. 8 ("Unfinished"). Los Angeles Philharmonic (Deutsche Grammophon)

• Mahler: Symphony No. 9. Chicago Symphony. (EMI)

• Mozart: "Don Giovanni." (EMI) Eberhard Waechter, Joan Sutherland, Luigi Alva, Gottlob Frick, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Giuseppe Taddei, Piero Cappuccilli. Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus of London. (EMI)

• Mozart: "Le nozze di Figaro" (The Marriage of Figaro). Giuseppe Taddei, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Anna Moffo, Fiorenza Cossotto, Eberhard Waechter. Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus of London.(EMI)

• Verdi: "Falstaff." Renato Bruson, Barbara Hendricks, Katia Ricciarrelli, Leo Nucci. Los Angeles Philharmonic. (Audio CD)

• Verdi: "Messa da Reqiuem/Quattro Pezzi Sacri." (Requiem Mass/Four Sacred Pieces). Nicolai Ghiaurov, Nicolai Gedda, Christa Ludwig, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. (EMI)

• Verdi: "La Traviata." Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Ettore Bastianini. Orchestra and chorus of La Scala Milan. (EMI).

A personal favorite of many fans is this excellent dvd: Bruckner: Carlo Maria Giulini in Rehe
posted by matteo at 12:38 PM on June 16, 2005

If his later recordings bask in an autumnal glow equal to the late Bruno Walter, it is nonetheless instructive to revisit his earlier discs, which gleam with a poised fire quite distinctive to the younger Giulini. As Simon Rattle once pointed out when he guest conducted in Los Angeles during Giulini’s tenure there, the orchestra would have a dark, burnished sound left over from Giulini when he started rehearsals, and throughout the week it would fade because he didn’t know how to keep that sound. This dark, burnished sound is impressive indeed in Giulini’s 1971 Beethoven ‘Seventh’ with the Chicago Symphony on EMI. The performance is neither slow nor rushed, but the conductor’s steady hand allows a tremendous momentum to build up along the way

And a sweet, priceless little anecdote from the LATimes story (main link):

The conductor treated every musician as an equal. Once, during a rehearsal with soprano Kathleen Battle, he left the podium and stood a few inches away from her face.
"Your singing is very beautiful, but your acting is too human," he said quietly. He proceeded to conduct her from a distance of six inches, and she sang like the angel he expected.

posted by matteo at 12:48 PM on June 16, 2005

Oh shit. You can't say he died untimely, in fact he had a damn good run, but I'll miss him. Nobody else had his way with Mozart. If I had to hear the news, I'm glad I heard it from you, Uncle Renzo.
posted by languagehat at 1:13 PM on June 16, 2005

Having ownership of only one of the ten listed recordings (the La Scala La Traviata)...thank you matteo yet again for pointing me towards another cache of landmark and necessary recordings to add to my collection from yet another musical genius.

A moment of silence upon the passing of his genius, and the passing of his technique. I regret that I'm not terribly familiar with his style, but this thread will hopefully be fortuitous to my understanding of him.

btw, was he not compatible with Tchaikovsky? I would think that they'd be a perfect match.

(As an aside: I love Kathleen Battle anecdotes, so thanks for that!)
posted by naxosaxur at 1:35 PM on June 16, 2005

Oh, this is sad news, but I'll be forever grateful for his work. His Braums was ethereal and his Verdi unmatchable. Nicely done Matteo.
posted by dejah420 at 1:55 PM on June 16, 2005

I'm pasting an excerpted version of the comments from my fabulous MET Opera forums, which are reserved for patrons of the MET. I think the anecdotes and praises are very coherent, and certainly provide an adequate memorial to his genius, expressed in terms that I just don't have the experience to expound. I hope this is permissible:

>>"I shall never forget Maestro Giulini's tenure with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, capped by a sublime reading of Mahler's 9th. Such a great musician! Requiescat in pace. "


>>"Maestro Giulini was the first Great Maestro of my youth - the first one I got to see live when I was living in the burbs of Chicago. As much as I loved Solti, it was always Giulini's concerts that I preferred. There was such a non-arrogant sophistication and elegance with everything he did and throughout my youth I held him up as the epitomy of class. Requiem in pace, beloved Maestro."


>>"I'll say outright that (first) Falstaff is my favorite recording of that masterpiece. (I also enjoy his second, much later recording in Los Angeles.) Outside of opera his Verdi Requiem is among my favorites, along with the Beethoven Missa Solemnis and Mozart Requiem. Of course there is the famous live Scala Traviata (my favorite performance actually, even if others like the Callas Lisbon or Covent Garden performances) with Maria and Giuseppe - oh it goes straight to the heart!"


>>"Then there was the recording of DON CARLO with Domingo, Caballe, Verrett, Milnes, Raimondi. Now that was a DON CARLO to hear. His Falstaff was out of this world. Yes, he conducted LOTS at CSO, I love his performance of Schubert Symphony #5. I fell in love with that recording, I'll have to play some of his CDs & LPs. CSO did a 2 or 3 CDs of his live performance @ CSO."


>>"During my time as a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus (1969 - 1980), some of the greatest concerts I participated in were under the direction Of Maestro Giulini. My God, what beautiful memories! Beethoven MISSA SOLEMNIS and the Ninth Symphony, Mozart REQUIEM, Schubert Mass in E flat, Schumann DAS PARADIES UND DIE PERI, Bach B MINOR MASS, Stravinsky LES NOCE, and the most memorable of them all, a sensational Verdi REQUIEM in March of 1971. Maestro Giulini's mother had just passed away a few weeks before and it was unclear if he was coming to the States to fullfil his commitments. The soloists were Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Carlo Cossutta, and Ezio Flagello all in superb form. The performances - Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and Saturday night - were incandescent, powerful, and deeply moving. Each performance got better with the Saturday night performance being quite possibly the most perfect performance of anything I have ever sung in my life. Something very special was happening in Orchestra Hall, Chicago that night and if I live to be 100 I don't think I will ever experience it again. When it was over the audience was dead silent, as much in shock as we were as to what just happened on stage. One by one people started applauding, slowly but surely until the applause and cheers became virtual roars. It was as if Notre Dame had scored a touchdown! Backstage the chorus was euphoric at what we had just taken part in. Even the CSO, cold-hearted veterans that they are, even they were amazed. Yes, he recorded a lot with the Chicago Syphony but I also believe one of our director Margaret Hillis's regrets was that her chorus never had the chance to record with Maestro Giulini. It is one of mine, too. I remember during the piano rehearsal for the Beethoven Ninth Symphony, he stopped at the passage where the men sing in unison after the trombone section entrance, "Seid um schlungen millionen". He stepped off the podium in the rehearsal room and came over to the men and said very simply and very quietly, "This must be a great sound." That was all. He went back to the podium, we looked at each other and knew instinctively what he wanted. He gave the downbeat again at that passage and the sound that came out of us was truly unbeleivable! It was as if every great male singer in the world was now in the chorus. You wanted to give everything for him, for the art of music. Solti was respected and admired but Giulini was loved. Making music under his direction was like singing for Michelangelo or Da Vinci. For me Carlo Maria Giulini was the embodiment of Italian Art and Culture. Who is out there today who can fill this great man's shoes? What a loss for music! What a loss for art! While I am saddened by his passing I am not too terribly surprised - it was just a matter of time before he left us, too. Caro Maestro, mille grazie per la musica e la memorie. Grazie per tutti! Requiescat in pace."


>>"Aside from all the wonderful things people have and will say about his musicianship, spirituality and conducting skill, I always thought he was hot. When I was teenager learning classical music, he was the subject of several "sexy older man" fantasies. "


>>"He was indeed a deeply handsome man. When he became the conductor of the LA Philharmonic, people said that that city took him to its heart because, in addition to everything else great about him, he LOOKED like central casting's image of a conductor.

He was also a pioneer in some important ways. I believe that the production he conducted of "Don Carlo" at Covent Garden with Vickers helped popularize the five-act version. He also conducted early recordings of opera buffas that showed that there was more to that repertoire than "The Barber of Seville." Horowitz said that he hand-picked Giulini to conduct Horowitz's first studio recording of a concerto in decades because of how much he admired Giulini's artistry."


>>"Yet another tremendous loss to the opera world - my goodness, the hits we've taken in the last year or so. His late-career recordings of Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and Falstaff will remain touchstones for me. Some reviewers complained that these recordings suffered from slow tempos, but Giulini always responded simply by pointing out that he was doing exactly what was written in the score, not what had become "traditional" just because people were used to it. For me, his autumnal views of these works penetrate much more keenly to these operas' central dramas than do many other performances. Thank you, caro maestro, for the legacy you left for us to enjoy in perpetuity. "
posted by naxosaxur at 1:55 PM on June 16, 2005

Having ownership of only one of the ten listed recordings (the La Scala La Traviata)

ah, very possibly his best opera work ever -- the usual buongustaia, naxos. and so many thanks for sharing your forum goodness, ragazza fortunata.

re: his Tchaikovsky. I seem to remember some in his middle years -- say late 1950's, very early 1960's. I need to check out my parents vinyl goodness, then I'll report back.

languagehat, re Giulini's Mozart -- the always excellent Enrico Girardi, in today's Corriere della Sera points out how Giulini uniquely understood Mozart's sensualità notturna
. so fitting a testament to the man, Girardi explains, that he refused to let people organize a huge farewell concert, a night that would have been an event of worldwide importance -- Giulini simply went to work on a Pastorale rehearsal with the young Verdi orchestra at the Milan Auditorium. just that. and don't believe the urban legend that he abandoned music in his retirement years. il Maestro, in private, was reading and studying til the end.

dejah -- you mean the Fourth, with the Chicago Symphony in the early 1970's? I love that disc so much it hurts really
posted by matteo at 2:22 PM on June 16, 2005

you mean the Fourth, with the Chicago Symphony in the early 1970's? I love that disc so much it hurts really

That's the one. The boy loves it too...he's so funny, he lays on the floor in front of the speakers and narrates his mood as the piece progresses..."Now I am I am happy..."
posted by dejah420 at 1:04 PM on June 17, 2005

posted by matteo at 3:43 AM on June 18, 2005

He does offer a surprising insight into the Giulini sound.
"Yes, because I can tell you I think I played very good viola, with good love and very good technique. And I think I wanted to produce the same sound in the other strings." He always brought his own parts to an orchestra, he explained, with all his own markings, and bowings for the strings. This is one thing that helped him in Los Angeles.
"I am very happy that, yes, I am very quick ... to produce the sound that is in my feeling."
(via The Rest Is Noise)

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posted by matteo at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2005

the Telegraph's obituary:
Giulini's Verdi performances had an inner incandescence that gave them spiritual depth. If they did not possess the high voltage of Toscanini and de Sabata, they had instead a profound perception of the music's underlying melancholy, for example even in the comedy Falstaff, where he found an unsuspected dark strain (as his recording testifies).

He was stylish in Mozart, elegant in Rossini, luminous in Debussy and outstandingly effective in Bruckner's late symphonies, moulding them with Italianate warmth but still penetrating to their Austrian core.

His Mahler, too, while scarcely idiomatic, was very impressive. Some found that his natural reticence in certain works could sometimes be carried too far - Peter Heyworth, for instance, once wrote of Giulini's "modesty with a capital M".
posted by matteo at 3:54 PM on June 19, 2005

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