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CD, MP3, FLAC: Pristine Audio

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Overture: The Hebrides, Fingal’s Cave, op.26 (1829/1835) [9:14]
Symphony No. 4 in A major, op. 90 'Italian' (1833) [27:44]
Ein Sommernachtstraum: A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Incidental Music; Wedding March Op.61 (1843) [4:14]
Felipe BOERO (1884-1958)
El Matrero – six excerpts (1929) [26:03] ¹
Pedro Mirassou (tenor): Nena Juárez (mezzo soprano): Apollo Granforte (baritone) ¹
Orchestra of La Scala Milan/Ettore Panizza
Orchestra of Teatro Colón/Ettore Panizza ¹
rec. April 1928 and January 1931, Milan and August 1929, Buenos Aires (Boero)

Experience Classicsonline

Now that Naxos Historical seems to be concentrating on a small number of more central things – one would have thought a few years ago that this Panizza release was very much in their line, or Biddulph’s – it’s left to the investigative likes of Pristine Audio to produce and release it. One of the producers and sound restorers I would have thought a likely one to assume responsibilities is Mark Obert-Thorn, and he has indeed done so, but for PA, for whom he seems now to do an increasing amount of work. I mention this as a preface because it seems to reinforce the drift away from historical releases by Naxos, for one of several reasons one assumes, and the rise of Pristine Audio.

Ettore Panizza (1875-1967) is best known for his legacy as an operatic conductor. He conducted Turandot in the Alfano version but his recordings are sparse. He was entrusted with some Mendelssohn recordings by Italian HMV in 1931. It was perhaps unusual repertoire for so well known an operatic director but there was clearly an affinity. He leads the Italian Symphony with vigour and indeed a certain panache. The first movement fugato is nicely pointed, and he doesn’t sacrifice detail for excessive speed. Articulation certainly doesn’t suffer. Portamenti are brisk in the slow movement which is attractively spun, the third movement moving with attractive contour. It’s only the finale that slightly disappoints. It’s rather over-emphatic and lacking in communicative drive, oddly. For a saltier take on the Saltarello one should turn to a recording made three months later – Harty’s (Dutton CDBP9781) where we find the Ulsterman in ferocious mood; indeed he’s in slashing mode for much of the symphony. So if you were surveying the choices form your armchair you’d go to Harty for vitesse and adrenalin – and a very fast take on the Andante (with a real con moto) and Panizza for a more leisurely spin. Later on of course you could have your pick; Beecham and the NYPSO, Koussevitzky and the Boston, Szell and his Clevelanders, Poulet and his eponymous orchestra on English Decca; and a traversal by Rossi and the Turin Symphony also on Decca that I’d like to hear.

Fingal’s Cave reinforces the feeling that Panizza and the La Scala orchestra worked very tautly together. There are pervasive portamenti - note from 6:30 on in particular – but the wind principals phrase imaginatively. The Wedding March is invigoratingly dispatched with some resplendent trumpet ring.

There is a most worthwhile addition – far more than a curio, though it’s that too, in a way. This is Felipe Boero’s El Matrero (The Bandit) of which there are six brief excerpts totalling some twenty-six minutes in length. The machinations of the plot needn’t detain is but the names of (especially) Apollo Granforte, tenor Pedro Mirassou and Nena Juárez certainly should. The extracts were recorded very soon after Panizza directed the premiere at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1929. On their evidence it’s a work of vivid verismo lyricism. There are some marvellously evocative localised effects – a guitar strum imitation for instance – as well as full-on love music and all three singers enter into the spirit with panache and total commitment.

With vivid transfers, this disc does for Panizza what Pristine Audio is also doing for the conductor Alfred Herz. This represents good, imaginative work all round.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Bob Briggs


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