Rossini – Overtures
The London Classical Players
Roger Norrington, conductor
Rediscovering Rossini’s Overtures
Although in the last decades we witnessed to the so-called “Rossini Renaissance”, some of the most famous arias and overtures written by the “swan of Pesaro” are heard more frequently in advertisements and in other, non-operatic entertainments rather than in their appropriate context. This recording, made in 1990 and released the year later, tries somehow to remedy this abuse featuring seven of Rossini’s overtures in the most serious way (it is enough to say that no less a person than Philip Gossett wrote the booklet notes).
Next to extremely popular overtures as those from Il barbiere di Siviglia and Guillame Tell, this album includes pieces that have been “rediscovered” only recently, as the “Renaissance” has brought to light two short, rarely performed operas as La scala di seta or Il signor Bruschino. Incidentally, it was not by chance that Il signor Bruschino disappeared from the stage as its overture intolerably annoyed Rossini’s contemporaries when the second violins stroke their bows against their candle holders as their part required them. There is also an overture from a drama giocoso, L’italiana in Algeri, while the overtures from La gazza ladra and Semiramide are here to remind us that Rossini wrote mainly opere serie, despite his posthumous reputation as a light and humorous composer.
In this recording, Roger Norrington performs these seven overtures leading his own period orchestra, The London Classical Players.
Roger Norrington and Rossini’s Overtures
What is more valuable of Norrington’s rendition of Rossini’s overtures is its pristine line and refinement. The conduction is brisk but never rushed, allowing Norrington to shape with exactitude each musical phrase. The colours of the various families of instruments are therefore finely depicted and some of them chisel some remarkable solo passages. Though you may regret the lack of a little more exuberance in these overtures, they are definitely remarkable for their colouring and shading and for the pure and luminous sound that the conductor draws from his players.
Rossini’s music is always fluid, “silky” – it is definitely the case to say it – in the overture from La scala di seta, especially thanks to the strings. An overture as that from L’italiana in Algeri is more jocose and sparkling than ever and the Barbiere di Siviglia, apart from being impertinent and vivacious, is performed with incredible smoothness. La gazza ladra, for its part, is perfectly balanced between martial tone and pensive atmospheres. The latter are wonderfully executed thanks to the perfect harmony between strings and woodwinds. Semiramide is remarkable for its flamboyance and sumptuousness, as if Norrington has thought of it as the most magnificent piece of the collection. The overture from Guillame Tell is a gem that contains lyrical, pastoral exquisiteness in its slow section, and brilliance in the dynamic finale, where the tempo is not rushed and makes possible to find some lustrous colours.