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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Complete Overtures - Volume 2
Guillaume Tell (1829) [11:37]
Eduardo e Christina (1819) [9:17]
L’inganno felice (1812) [6:07]
The Silken Ladder (1812) [6:01]
Demetrio e Polibio (1808) [6:31]
Il Signor Bruschino (1813) [4:54]
Sinfonia di Bologna (1808) [5:26]
Sigismondo (1814) [8:30]
Prague Sinfonia Orchestra/Christian Benda
rec. 5-6 September 2011, Kulturni Dum Barikadniku and 30-31 May 2012, Produkcni dum Vzlet, Prague, Czech Republic
NAXOS 8.570934 [58:21]

The majority of Rossini’s overtures are particularly well known and have been recorded many times (see reviews of Volume 1 in this series), but here we find they are spaced out with interesting rarities. It is this fact that will make this disc most welcome and of interest to the buyer. The conductor, Christian Benda, has gathered a good reputation, having worked with the Torino Philharmonic, Polish National Opera Orchestra, and Orchestre de la Suisse Romade. As a cellist, he is understandably sensitive to the exacting role of the strings in a Rossini score and that’s evident from this recording. Apart from the Guillaume Tell overture, the rest are taken from a tight period of composition between 1808 and 1819, yet their styles are quite varied.
 
This prolific composer churned music out like hot-cakes and although there is a characteristically recognisable stamp that is ‘Rossini’, there is considerable variety of melody and busy string playing that is always enticing. Of the pieces, the best known is Guillaume Tell and here Benda’s performance matches up well with the quality of benchmark recordings. In L’inganno Felice, the boundless energy is captivating, with bright and precise strings nicely balanced by warm-toned horns. The more solid and ponderous Demetrio e Polibio was Rossini’s first attempt at dramatic opera and apparently was originally scored for strings alone. Here the bassoon is prominent and colours the mood of the piece. Despite its weight the overture provides good contrast to the others and contains enjoyable melodic lines. The CD also contains a short sinfonia, Sinfonia di Bologna, where the style acceptably fits the early overture genre … at least if one adheres to 18th century sonata-form.
 
The Prague orchestras carry a reputation for fine musicianship that doesn’t go unnoticed here where the articulation is first class. I like the quality of sound where a clear focus on sections of the orchestra is noticeable and the balance is superb. The bite and crispness of the strings gives an energetic feel to the playing. Despite the modest size of the Kulturní dum Barikadniku hall, the recording is set in a warm and flattering ambience.
 
Succinct notes in English by Keith Anderson gives useful background information and brief resumés of the operas.
 
This disc is welcomed without hesitation.  

Raymond J Walker