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CD Review

Giaochino Rossini

Complete Overtures, Volume 4

  • Il barbiere di Siviglia
  • Il Turco in Italia
  • Sinfonia in E Flat Major
  • Ricciardo e Zoraide
  • Torvaldo e Dorliska
  • Armida
  • Le Comte Ory
  • Bianca e Falliero
Prague Sinfonia Orchestra/Christian Benda
Naxos 8.572735
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.comFind it at CD Universe Find it at JPC
Also available on Blu-ray Audio with Volume 3 (15 works total) on NBD0035:
Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - JPC

I have been reviewing these pieces a lot lately, and the reasons aren't difficult to understand. They are a delight. This fourth volume completes the uniformly excellent Rossini series under Christian Benda and the Prague Sinfonia Orchestra. This also makes it – as expected – the reference edition for the composer's complete overture output. Neville Marriner's series on Philips was never so much a reference as it was the only option on the market; last seen on a Universal "Trio", it is neither as interesting nor as complete as the Naxos edition.

As with the other three installments, this fourth disc intelligently mixes favorites of long-standing with appealing rarities. And also like the previous offerings, there is some really great playing to be had here. The Prague Sinfonia Orchestra plays with tremendous character and clarity, making these works something worth listening to anew. The winds and percussion remain noteworthy, the smaller string section continues to be at once incisive and exciting, and the brass retain a somewhat watery quality that I happen to like a lot. Christian Benda has clearly put a lot of thought into these scores, and managed to maintain a level of quality that is impressive. It says something about this conductor and ensemble alike that all four volumes are worth owning together, and all four can also stand entirely along as programs of merit.

The more famous overtures are played with a joyous relish that many a big name orchestra has lacked, while all the rarer works are given the same amount of care and attention to detail as their more illustrious disc-mates. Indeed, throughout the entire series, only one performance has disappointed me. That was the William Tell overture on Volume Two, which after a marvelously played and conducted buildup, fell curiously flat at the end. Otherwise, everything has been marvelous across the board. I know, I know… Sir Neville remains a living legend, and his recordings on Philips and Argo are something of a classic icon in this genre. But these warmly played, lovingly conducted albums simply offer more music in better sound. This is the set of choice. Grab it now.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman