Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Juan, op. 20 [15:59]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegfried Idyll [17:06]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor From the New World, op. 95 [38:03]
Piotr Ilyitch TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Capriccio Italien, op. 45 [14:32]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Capriccio Espagnol [15:01]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Overture Il Signor Bruschino [4:35]
Overture Semiramide [12:17]
Overture L'Italiana in Algeri [7:59]
Overture La Scala di Seta [6:17]
Overture Guillaume Tell [11:41]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
rec. 1953-1957. mono
OPUS KURA OPK7073/4 [71:39 + 72:59]
The first thing that springs to mind when I hear the name Alceo Galliera (1910-1996) is the 1957 recording of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia; the one that he made with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi. It remains a stalwart of the catalogue and a great favourite. It remained his only large-scaled studio project, as opera didn’t feature that much in his career. His profile was as an orchestral conductor. After making his debut in 1940 at a concert at La Scala, Milan, the city of his birth, he came to the attention of Walter Legge, founder of the Philharmonia. Galliera’s first outing with this orchestra was in 1946 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, and in June of that year he made his first commercial recordings with them in No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road. Legge harnessed him mainly as a concerto accompanist, and the many illustrious soloists he worked with included Michelangeli, Lipatti, Gieseking, Anda and Arrau. He was seen as a safe pair of hands, devoid of quirks and mannerisms, and easy to work with. Opus Kura are to be lauded in releasing these recordings of Galliera as a distinguished and formidable orchestral conductor in his own right.
The Strauss Don Juan and Dvořák Symphony are remakes on LP of previous 78 traversals, recorded in the acclaimed acoustic of London's Kingsway Hall. Whilst the Strauss is a glowing account, Galliera doesn’t quite achieve the lush, voluptuous sound Karajan draws from the same orchestra in his recording from December 1951. The Dvořák Symphony No. 9 in E minor From the New World, op. 95 is the most substantial work here. After the Adagio introduction, Galliera directs a nicely paced opening movement with a non-fussy approach. He brings power and force to the climaxes, forcing you to sit up and take notice. The beguiling cor anglais solo in the Largo is most appealing, and the movement, as a whole, doesn’t wallow. Throughout the symphony, the woodwind passages are captivating and call to mind The Times critic who, writing of an earlier Galliera concerto performance, praised the conductor for "beauties he revealed in the parts for woodwind...". The Scherzo has verve and vigour, and the spine-tingling finale is audacious and driven, with the orchestra firing on all cylinders.
You can’t fail to be won over by the warm and expressive Siegfried Idyll, featuring the incandescent horn-playing of Dennis Brain. Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien is characterized by confidence and allure. The brass make a bold opening statement and from then on Galliera highlights the cut and thrust of the music with rhythmic precision. Similarly, in Rimsky-Korsakov's scintillating and exotic Capriccio Espagnol, he serves up a performance of striking directness, and the listener can just sit back and enjoy the memorable melodies. There’s something vital about these two Russian gems, and the audio quality, despite being in mono, reveals plenty of orchestral colour.
The five Rossini Overtures were set down in 1953 and unfortunately, due to timing considerations, Cenerentola from the same sessions has had to be omitted. Semiramide is particularly distinctive, with conductor and players luxuriating in the seductive lyricism of the score. The final part of William Tell is sprightly and vivacious. The only disappointment is the absence of my favourite La Gazza Ladra, apparently not repeated by Galliera on LP as he had already recorded it on 78s with Il barbiere di Siviglia.
These mono recordings are in perfectly acceptable sound for their age and constitute a valuable addition to any historical collection.