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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Overtures
Tancredi [5:48]
La scala di seta [6:11]
Il Turco in Italia [8:41]; Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra [7:30]; Guillaume Tell [11:14]; La gazza ladra [9:58]
Uppsala Kammarorkester/Paul Mägi
rec. live, Grand Auditorium, Uppsala University, 21 September 2006; Concert Hall of the Uppsala Konsert and Kongress, 18 October 2007
SWEDISH SOCIETY DISCOFIL SCD1155 [49:22]

There are many discs of Rossini Overtures already on the market, including classics by Giulini, Toscanini, Reiner, Chailly, Norrington and many others, as well as a complete set by Sir Neville Marriner and the first volume of a very promising complete set from Naxos under Christian Benda. Any new disc needs to be very special to make much headway in the face of such competition.
 
The choice of content is likely to be the first consideration, and the inclusion of Tancredi here is a positive step in that direction. The statement on the cover that it is played in a revised version by Philip Gossett may suggest that it is significantly different to what is usually heard but in fact the audible differences are few. Otherwise the choice here is predictable especially if you are not misled by the apparent rarity of the inclusion of the Overture to Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra. This was later reused by Rossini for Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The overall playing time of under fifty minutes is not generous.
 
The best item by far is the Overture to Il turco in Italia which is given a spry and characterful performance. If the disc were all as good as this is would be well worth having, but the others are less good. All too often this is not so much a matter of lacking individuality as of attempting to achieve too much of it. Speeds are too often ill chosen, too slow or more often too fast, especially in La scala di seta andTancredi. The crucial trumpet call announcing the galop in Guillaume Tell lacks energy and is too recessed. Perhaps these points are the result of these being live recordings, but whatever the reason I felt little inclination to listen again. The producers of the disc have not helped by including short bursts of applause after each item - a longer one after the last - followed almost immediately by the next Overture. This makes listening an unsettling experience overall. In addition the brief notes in the leaflet are printed in very small print in white against a black background making reading unnecessarily uncomfortable.
 
All of this is a great pity as in general the actual orchestral playing on the disc is first rate. As it is I can see little reason to favour this disc over the many earlier discs of this repertoire.  

John Sheppard