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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Complete Overtures - Volume 1
La gazza ladra [9:50]
Semiramide [12:27]
Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra [7:28]
Otello [8:34]
Le siège de Corinthe [9:34]
Sinfonia in D, ‘al Conventello’[4:03]
Ermione* [8:08]
Guillaume Tell [11:34]
Eduardo e Cristina** [9:14]
L’inganno felice [6:01]
La scala di seta [6:00]
Demetrio e Polibio [6:32]
Il Signor Bruschino [4:48]
Sinfonia di Bologna [5:22]
Sigismondo** [8:28]
Prague Philharmonic Choir*
Prague Sinfonia Orchestra/Christian Benda
rec. Kulturní Dům Barikádníků, Prague, Czech Republic, 5-6 September 2011 and Produkční dům Vzlet, Prague, 30-31 May 2012 (tracks marked **)
24-bit/96 kHz Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD Surround Recordings
Also available on CD as 8.570933 and 8.570934
NAXOS BD-A NBD0028 [1:57:46]
 
Complete Overtures - Volume 4
Il barbiere di Siviglia [7:27]
Il Turco in Italia [9:00]
Sinfonia in E flat [5:23]
Ricciardo e Zoraide [9:11]
Torvaldo e Dorliska [8:36]
Armida [6:09]
Le Comte Ory [3:06]
Bianca e Falliero [3:38]
Prague Sinfonia Orchestra/Christian Benda
rec. Kulturní Dům Barikádníků, Prague, Czech Republic, 5-6 September 2011
(track 1), and Produkční dům Vzlet, Prague, 30-31 May 2012 (tracks 2-8)
NAXOS 8.572735 [55:31]

We have already welcomed the earlier volumes in this series – see below - and Volume 4 now completes the set. Far from scraping the bottom of the barrel, it contains some of the best-known music. Indeed, in many ways Naxos have left the best until last, with performances and recording to match the earlier volumes.
 
The blu-ray disc labelled ‘Volume 1’ and bearing the same cover shot as the first of the four CDs in the series actually contains discs 1 and 2. With two hours of music it represents very good value at around £10, when the CDs retail for around £6 each in the UK. Volumes 3 and 4 are gathered together in similar fashion (NBD0035).
 
I don’t even need to ask the question that I have asked with other Naxos BD-A releases: not only is it worth having the extra presence of the 24/96 recording, especially if you prefer surround sound, but on this occasion there is no premium to pay for the privilege.
 
If your blu-ray player is linked only to your TV set you won’t benefit from the BD-A sound quality. For that you need to have the player hooked into your audio system – in my case I have the more expensive blu-ray/SACD player, Cambridge Audio 650BD (replaced by the 651BD) connected in that way, with a less expensive but still very satisfactory Sony player linked to the TV. Don’t worry about not having your TV screen to guide you – if your player doesn’t automatically recognise the disc and your preferred format, simply follow the advice on the Naxos box and press red for surround sound or green for stereo.
 
As for the performances I’m already on record as saying that those on CD1 and 2 are the best that I’ve heard since the classic Pierino Gamba LPs (mono 1955 and stereo 1960 – selections from both sets on Romantic Overtures 2: Australian Decca Eloquence (4803899, 2 CDs). Gamba took some risks with the tempi and Christian Benda is sometimes a little more inhibited but I thoroughly enjoyed his performances and the same applies to CD4. His overture to La Gazza Ladra (blu-ray/CD volume 1, track 1) and the Barbiere di Siviglia overture (CD4, track 1) are both a tad slow by comparison with Gamba, but in Bianca e Falliero, for example, a work new to me and not recorded by Gamba, he builds up a fine head of steam (CD4, track 8).
 
Classicsonline.com have Volume 4 in mp3 and lossless sound, complete with booklet; the mp3 which I received for review sounds well but audiophiles may well wish to wait for the BD-A, especially if volumes 3 and 4 are again combined in that format. Classicsonline.com also offer a 16-bit lossless version but their lossless downloads come inconveniently as one long file. Eclassical.com have both mp3 and lossless; both come complete with the booklet and, at $9.99 each, are a few cents/pence less expensive than the CD.
 
Brian Wilson
 
Previous reviews (CD)
Volume 1: John Whitmore ~~ John Sheppard
Volume 2: Raymond Walker ~~ John Sheppard
Volume 3: John Sheppard ~~ Brian Wilson