Naxos’ Very Promising Complete Rossini Overtures Series

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Up to now, the standard collection of Rossini overtures has been Neville Marriner’s correct but somewhat flat-footed series on Philips. This new project promises to improve on that set considerably. Christian Benda’s Prague Sinfonia has all of the discipline of Marriner’s ensemble, but with an extra sprightliness and vivacity—bright piccolo and wind sonorities plus crisp percussion—that the earlier set doesn’t match. There’s more sheer fun in the music making on this new release, a quality that’s fully in evidence and properly exploited, even in Rossini’s most serious music (The Siege of Corinth, for example).

The selection of works is well chosen for maximum variety. Ermione, one of Rossini’s most remarkable and undervalued masterpieces, has an overture featuring choral interjections that are extremely arresting. The Sinfonia in D ‘al Conventello’ is an early work that predates Rossini’s operatic career, but reveals much of the composer to come. Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra uses the first version of what later became the overture to The Barber of Seville. The Siege of Corinth reveals the sophisticated composer of his last, Parisian period, although Rossini evidently borrowed some of this piece from his contemporary, Mayr.

The only possible criticism that I could level at these performances might be that in the more heavily scored works, such as La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie), the trombones could penetrate the texture with more sharpness; but this is a very small point in what otherwise is a wholly winning, very well engineered disc. I look forward eagerly to the rest of this cycle. It’s sounds like it may well become the series of choice.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Complete Overtures 1
Reference Recording: None for this coupling

    Overtures La gazza ladra; Semiramide; Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra (The Barber of Seville); Otello; The Siege of Corinth; Sinfonia in D; Ermione

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