The death of Carlo Maria Giulini, at ninety-one years old in 2005, marked the end of the golden age of conducting: that of the great dominating and charismatic figures. Among these, Giulini was like a leopard, because of his aristocratic presence and his ties with Luchino Visconti, the director of The Leopard drawn from the novel of the same name by Lampedusa. They produced together Verdi's Don Carlos at Covent Garden in London.
Before that, it was as a member of the Orchestra Augusteo of Rome that Giulini was trained on the viola and where he played under the direction of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter. An anti-Fascist, he deserted the Czech front where he was sent, to hide in Rome where he joined the Resistance. In 1949, he became the assistant of Victor de Sabata at the Scala where he established himself as an incomparable opera conductor. But Giulini was also an incomparable symphonic orchestra conductor through his unique propensity to stretch out the tempo – exaggeratedly so according to some people – and confer a mystical dimension to the music.
We meet him again in 1965 at the head of the New Philharmonia Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra of today, in Mozart's Symphony No. 40, which he performs for us as if we were hearing it for the first time. This is the stamp of the truly great: they are able to revive even those scores played over and over again. He then sets the orchestra on fire in a vibrant, spirited Second Suite of de Falla's Three-Cornered Hat.
Three years later, Giulini meets up with the New Philarmonia once again for the overture of Verdi's The Sicilian Vespers, the composer with whom he made his lyrical debut in 1948 and who marked his career. Before us, from the orchestra's initial murmur until the end, he builds a majestic theatre of sound. The Leopard in action.
Orchestre national de la RTF, Eugen Jochum (conductor) - Orchestre Philharmonique de l'ORTF, Serge Baudo (conductor) - Gerald Moore (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Verbier Festival 2007