On Air Now
The Classic FM Concert with John Suchet 8pm - 10pm
In a career spanning 54 years, Carlo Maria Giulini conducted many of the world’s great orchestras and made outstanding recordings.
When he was five, the young Carlo was given a violin and progressed rapidly with local teachers, notably a Bohemian pharmacist and violinist who the boy nicknamed ‘Brahms.’
At 16, Giulini went to study viola and conducting at the legendary Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. After a successful audition, he won a place in the Academy’s prestigious Orchestra.
Giulini played in the Academy's Orchestra under such giants as Bruno Walter, Furtwängler, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, and Klemperer. Giulini’s first public performance was the Brahms Symphony No. 1 under Walter who, Giulini said, had a gift for making every musician feel important.
Despite being a pacifist, Giulini was forced to join the Italian army during World War II, but he refused to fire his gun at another human being. In 1942, while on leave in Rome, he married Marcella de Girolami, his girlfriend since 1938; they had three children and remained together until her death 53 years later.
In September 1943, following the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces, the Nazis continued to occupy Rome. Giulini went into hiding, living for nine months in an underground tunnel, with two friends and a Jewish family. Posters around Rome with his face and name instructed that he be shot on sight.
After the liberation of Rome on 4 June 1944, Giulini - who was among the few conductors not tainted by associations with Fascism - was chosen to lead the Accademia's first concert, held on 16 July 1944. On the program was the Brahms Symphony No. 4, which he had studied while in hiding. It became the work he conducted most frequently over the course of his career, with a total of 180 performances.
Giulini conducted his first staged opera in 1950 in Bergamo. It was Verdi’s 'La traviata' and he returned the following year with Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi alternating in the role of Violetta. He is pictured here in October 1959 talking to the Australian soprano Dame Joan Sutherland, during a recording session of Mozart's opera 'Don Giovanni'.
After hearing Giulini’s radio broadcast of Debussy's 'La mer', the great conductor Toscanini asked to meet Giulini and the two men formed a deep bond. Toscanini recommended Giulini for the musical directorship at La Scala. He took up the post in 1953. Over a five year period, he conducted 13 productions but resigned after members of the audience jeered Maria Callas during a run of operas in 1956.
In 1955 he made his American debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, leading to a 23-year association with the orchestra. During the 1960s, Giulini was in great demand as a guest conductor of major orchestras around the world, and made numerous well-received recordings with the Philharmonia in London.
Giulini retired in 1998, and died in Brescia, Italy, aged 91. The New York Times obituary reported that, ‘Far from being an autocratic conductor or a kinetic dynamo of the podium, Mr. Giulini was a probing musician who achieved results by projecting serene authority and providing a model of selfless devotion to the score. His symphonic performances were at once magisterial and urgent, full of surprise yet utterly natural.’