This is the 2010 reissue of the 1972 magnificent studio recording of the French version (the one actually edited by the composer himself) of the last Rossini's opera.
"Guillaume Tell" is here presented in a quite complete version (4 CDs containing nearly four hours of wonderful music), therefore gaining in narrative breath and balance.
The great Gabriel Bacquier (b. 1924) is a convincing Guillaume, rendered through a round and generous heroic vocality, but, at the same time, able to convey a moving lyricism, as in the heart rending scene which precedes the well known episode of the apple.
A really top level couple of artists - Montserrat Caballé (b. 1933), as Mathilde, and Nicolai Gedda (b. 1925), as Arnoldo, - gives us solos and duets where virtuosic bel canto and interpretative deepness perfectly merge for a pleasant listening and an intense emotional involvement.
Mady Mesplé (b. 1931), one of the best famed French "soprano di coloratura", convincingly renders the combative personality, joined to the childish tenderness, of Jemmy, Guillaume's young son, giving us some very enjoyable bel canto moments.
Jocelyne Taillon (1941-2004) - a pupil of the great Germaine Lubin (1890-1979) - is an excellent Edwige (Guillaume's wife and Jemmy's mother) in rendering her continuos and deep apprehension for her beloved relatives' destiny, courageously hidden under the dignity suited to a leader's wife.
This outstanding group of Stars is then appropriately supported by a powerful and solid team of basses - with voices of other times.
A young Kolos Kovacs (b. 1948), even if his French pronunciation is not so refined, is a powerful Walter; Gwynne Howell (b. 1938) well personifies Melchthal, wise, but still combative, patriarch; Nicolas Christou (b. 1943) is a very appropriate Leuthold; Louis Hendrikx, in my opinion, presents an opaquer and less rounded and homogeneous vocal emission, but, on the whole, his timbre is well suited to the wicked Gessler.
But what further exalts the quality of the whole is the intelligent and sensitive conducting by Lamberto Gardelli (1915-1989), who manages to extract from the original, innovative and difficult Rossini's score the entire myriad of colours and details it masterfully has been filled with, merging them through a coherent and unitary artistic vision.
Always attentive and present, but never invasive, while "accompanying" the soloist and excellent in holding at a very high artistic level the numerous choral parts, Gardelli has then a wide room to demonstrate all his highly refined orchestral technique and his deep musical and personal sensitiveness during the many parts for orchestra solos, as the famous overture, the interludes, the ballets. The result of his work is a refined and vivid arras, rich of splendid and warm colours, perfectly matching what virtually contained in Rossini's score.
In brief, avoiding senseless attention-seeking, while granting the needed "breath" to the superstars of the cast, Gardelli steadily holds the interpretative leadership of this complex masterpiece, so that I think this recording can deservedly be regarded as his own "Guillaume Tell".
As a matter of fact, "Guillaume Tell" is an opera seria, with dramatic and high tension moments, but it is not a tragedy; its "happy ending", the importance of landscape themes and of passages describing everyday bucolic life fully justify a scoring and a reading far from the darkness of ineluctability. Here, the legendary aspect, quite fabled, the liberation hope, finally fulfilled, and the sense of daily life, that, in any case, goes on following its natural pace, are constantly present in the background of the main plot.
The Ambrosian Opera Chorus and John McCarthy deserve a very particular praise for their exceptional technical and artistic capacities.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is "on fire", and attentively and generously supports Gardelli's artistic effort.
The excellent studio-stereo-analogic 1972 original recording has been improved by the 1988 remastering (the same used for the preceding issue on CD).
As always in this EMI collection, the libretto is not on paper, but it is on the additional CD or it can be downloaded from the EMI Opera site.
I think that it is, and - alas! - it will be, very difficult to find a better recording of this truly Rossinian French edition.