I read good things about Volume One of this series, which I haven't heard, but that didn't stop me from being very interested in the second installment. Veteran critics have pointed out and lamented that for such popular works, they're awfully hard to find complete. Marriner's mid-career Philips set is very well played and reasonably interesting, but when the market is headed by "reasonably interesting", it's a clear case of a new set being entirely justified. This volume contains some very worthy music in great sound, expertly executed.
Other than the overture to William Tell, there isn't anything long time collectors will carp about duplicating. And the novice will be bombarded with tuneful, toe-tapping overtures that deserve a place on everyone's shelf? How's the Guillaume Tell? Not bad, but so many others have simply played the heck out of the piece that Benda's relative restraint seems a touch underwhelming. But a listen through the rest of the program shows that the conductor knows exactly what he wants to do. He and his Prague forces pay a ton of attention to little details of articulation and color. The sonic quality of the disc certainly helps; not even Marriner's vintage Philips sound can match this, and Benda's players are frankly more insightful.
So what does a collector do? The obvious choice is to collect the series, but I lean toward Reiner and Abbado for the major overtures found in the first installment. I would then collect this and (I presume) the future release of Volume Three to get all the orchestral Rossini anyone could wish for. If you insist on sticking with one team though, Naxos provides enormous value and quality; I have no doubt that the whole series will be the finest of its kind when all is said and done. This is a treat, so enjoy!
Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman