The Italian Almanac

Carlo Maria Giulini

Italian News / Music - June 16

Carlo Maria Giulini, the 20th century giant of conducting who considered himself a reverential servant of the great composers, has died at age 91. He died Tuesday in Brescia in northern Italy.

Giulini's last permanent post was music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, from 1978 until 1985, when he resigned to spend more time with his ailing wife. He also conducted at Milan's La Scala, the Chicago Symphony and the Vienna Symphony. A young friend of the master Arturo Toscanini, who was impressed by one of his performances at the podium, Giulini spanned the golden age of conducting in the early decades of the 20th century and Italy's contemporary generation of maestros like Riccardo Muti and Claudio Abbado.

In later years, Giulini stuck close to his home in Milan, conducting Europe's great orchestras but renouncing opera productions because of the long rehearsals. Giulini's profound respect for the masters often produced an almost religious quality in his work. In his career, Giulini concentrated on Brahms, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bruckner and Schubert. For opera he preferred Mozart, conducting little Puccini or Wagner.

A modest, nearly ascetic man, he saw conducting as a priestly mission, a ministry for the gods of classical music. "Music is an act of love," he would say, dismissing ambition. Career? "The word is repugnant to me," he told an interviewer. "I'm not like a corporal who has to become a captain." In Los Angeles, where he said his only friend was the comedian Danny Kaye, his contract specifically exempted him from any part in the social whirl.