Rossini overtures can tell you a great deal about who's conducting them. It's all in those crescendos; they can accelerate (Furtwangler), seethe (Toscanini), glisten (Reiner), laugh (Beecham) or thump (Dorati), Carlo Maria Giulini, however, is a master of stealth and style, a "beautiful mover". Listen to the way he builds The Thieving Magpie's first crescendo (at 5'25") with horns and woodwinds cheekily cavorting over a chug-along rhythmic base, then gradually intensifying until bass and side drum harden the mix. It's thrilling, but it's also fairly subtle - which is why you can listen again and again without getting bored. Or you might try the opening of The Barber of Seville overture, where strings answer winds with the utmost elegance and the oboe effects a perfect phrasal arch. Thereafter, the playing is both muscular and refined. The Silken Ladder has pin-sharp oboes and busily scuttling strings; Semiramide opens with a superb horn quartet; and William Tell is distinguished by a broadly etched storm (absolutely no hint of the pier) and a superb Gallop. The sound is, well, pretty good - a bit glassy perhaps, but lively enough. And there are more Rossini overtures where these came from: perhaps Eminence might add them to some of Giulini's Verdi overtures.
When Geza Anda plays, it's as if he's having a love affair with the keyboard: his touch is sensually alluring and his every gesture calculated to squeeze the maximum expressive potential from the music. And of course Schumann's music is an absolute godsend for the pianistic colourist, Carnaval especially. Anda maximises the contrast between Florestan and Eusebius (Schumann's fanciful personifications of dream and action), voicing the latter with exquisite sensitivity ("Eusebius", track 5, or even better, "Chopin", on track 12) and thundering the former in an assertive account of the closing "March of the `Davidsbundler' against the Philistines" (track 21). His Symphonic Studies are coltish, unpredictable and technically brilliant (try Studies Nos 6 and 7), and note how he builds Kreisleriana's opening agitatissimo - excitedly but with absolute tonal control. The actual recordings are rather plummy and lacking in "top", although that's no fault of the transfers (it's very much how they sounded on LP). However, the playing itself hails from the near side of a golden age: if you already enjoy Anda in Bartok and Mozart (his more familiar claims to fame), you should certainly sample his Schumann. There are other recordings of him performing this repertoire, but none better than these.