Top positive review
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A recording to be spoken about in the same hushed tones as for Reiner
on 12 March 2013
This disc, mercifully well recorded in the 1970s, at last brings a performance that can stand comparison with the famous one made by Reiner and the CPO in about 1960 and now available in fine SACD format. I refer to the two Roman pieces which are the real meat of this disc. The remaining items are not really in the same class of epic inspiration but are still played here as well as can be imagined.
The key defining moment in the Pines and Festivals is the last movement of the Pines. It is crucial that the correct tempo is chosen. This should represent the might of the Roman army marching from a far distance, hazy effects vital here, and probably coming from Egypt (indicative cor anglais solo). From there the piece is all about overlapping swathes of sound building up remorselessly over a steady marching beat. The steady beat is crucial (bass drum). Too fast and it becomes a jolly romp home. Too much detail on the beat within the beat and the same damage is done. Very few conductors can resist the urge for volume and speed for this ending and consequently lessen the impact disastrously. Reiner does it best. Karajan is in the same class though and has the advantage of newer recording. Muti and Pappano are among the others who are most successful with this piece and refuse to hurry.
There are, of course, many other key points but none so crucial as the ending. Recorded nightingales are generally well done and so is the distant solo trumpet heard earlier. Karajan is playing to his strengths on this disc. The BPO are pretty well a dream team with this sort of drilled precision and mellifluous playing. That combination is what makes this a fine Roman pairing. The string resources of this orchestra are also shown to good effect in the Boccherini and Albinoni arrangements as well as in the Ancient Airs suite 3.
I would suggest that this disc, along with Reiner, Muti and Pappano, is well worth considering for purchase by those wanting an 'only' recording or those interested in comparative recordings.