53,454 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 (From the New World) (1893) [44:05]
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (1894) [42:30]
Mario Brunello (cello)
Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma/Antonio Pappano
rec. in concert, Sala Santa Cecilia, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, November 2011 (symphony), January 2012
EMI CLASSICS 9141022 [44:05 + 42:30]

The repertoire hardly needed duplicating, but this issue tenuously maintains the once-common "documentary" practice of recording, mostly in abeyance as the major labels have retrenched. Antonio Pappano is an established, high-profile conductor whose work merits careful documentation under controlled conditions and in good sound ... and, no, mp3 files and YouTube videos do not qualify as "good-sounding"! It's easier to get the measure of an artist in well-known, rather than unfamiliar, music. So another New World and Cello Concerto come down the chute, clumsily harnessed into a two-disc set.
First off, one notices the alert playing the conductor draws from the St. Cecilia players. They respond to his direction attentively, with an involvement that could shame a business-as-usual virtuoso orchestra. The strings are well-blended, winds and brass are colorful and firm, and the ensemble sonority is full-throated. Punctuating chords are incisive, even slashing, as at the end of the symphony's Scherzo.
Interpretively, Pappano takes nothing for granted in the New World, phrasing with purpose, eliciting vivid, expressive colours. The slow introduction is beautiful and affecting; in the body of the first movement, Pappano infuses the music with a rhythmic buoyancy along with the customary forward drive, carrying the music aloft, keeping it vital.
A similar buoyancy makes for striking passages in the two middle movements as well. The great Largo sounds freshly considered, solemn and expressive; a nice "lift" underlines the unsettled quality of the middle section, and the chirping woodwind solos at 8:38 are unusually evocative. Similarly, the unexceptionable Scherzo offers an unusually lilting, light-textured rendition of the Trio, bringing out its charm.
The Scherzo's reprise, a bit more nervous than the first go-round, suggests that, in this concert, fatigue may have been setting in. This impression is unfortunately confirmed in the finale, where much of the playing is edgy and slightly too loud, compromising Pappano's unusually cogent, seamless rendering of the movement, and illustrating why studio sessions are sometimes worth the extra expense.
The Cello Concerto's orchestral introduction begins firmly enough, but momentum begins to falter as early as the first tutti, and Pappano fusses uncharacteristically with the juicy lyrical theme at 2:20. It turns out that he's simply being a good colleague: soloist Mario Brunello fusses similarly with that same theme. Brunello's instincts are musical, but his way of straining for expression can lose the forest for the trees, with some passages nearly coming to a standstill. Similarly, the Finale simply seems to go on too long, although Pappano's taut coda rouses the audience to a nice hand, anyway. Brunello plays capably, though his tone can turn dry or thin in faster passages. It mightn't be fair to expect the whopping sound of a Rostropovich (EMI), but the vibrant lyricism of a Fournier (DG) or Gendron (Philips), at least, might have been within Brunello's reach.
While the New World - or most of it - gave me much pleasure, this album does not rate as a "basic library" choice for either work. Still, I'm pleased that Pappano is getting to "show his stuff" in symphonic works as well as in opera.
Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.

See also review by John Whitmore

Masterwork Index: Symphony 9 ~~ Cello concerto