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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master conductor gets the orchestra he deserves
I am yet again indebted to fellow-reviewer and friend Stewart Crowe for introducing me to this superlative live recording. I have over the years indulged a guilty fondness for these works - often impugned as somehow flashy or meretricious as "serious" music but favoured over the years by some very serious conductors beginning with Toscanini - in playing the...
Published 13 months ago by Ralph Moore

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Respighi let-down.
I am sorry to part company with the two other reviewers of this disc, but in my opinion, as a lover of Respighi's Roman Trilogy for over half a century, and an eager purchaser of all new recordings of these masterpieces, there is no way this issue goes to the head of the recommendations list. True, Svetlanov's earlier performances with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra...
Published 13 months ago by S. Mitchell


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master conductor gets the orchestra he deserves, 31 Mar. 2014
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Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Respighi: Fontana di Roma / Feste Romane / Pini di Roma (Audio CD)
I am yet again indebted to fellow-reviewer and friend Stewart Crowe for introducing me to this superlative live recording. I have over the years indulged a guilty fondness for these works - often impugned as somehow flashy or meretricious as "serious" music but favoured over the years by some very serious conductors beginning with Toscanini - in playing the recording by Batiz on Naxos, and while I still love its flashy allure, this 1999 concert by Svetlanov offers a combination of diaphanous subtlety and sonic brilliance that makes it hard to resist. Just like the previous reviewer, I was especially struck on first listening by the extraordinary fluency of the transitions between movements, particularly between the Triton and the Trevi fountain episodes.

As for the playing of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, it is testimony to the quality of supposedly regional bands these days whose banks are filled by the plethora of first-rate musicians coming out of modern conservatories; I can hear no difference between them and any of the five world-class orchestras I regularly hear in London. Nor could the sound engineering be better. This unlikely disc jumps to the head of the list of recommended versions.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelatory is an overused word-especially by me!-but NOT here! Absolutely overwhelming and unreservedly recommended!, 12 Mar. 2014
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D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Respighi: Fontana di Roma / Feste Romane / Pini di Roma (Audio CD)
Listening to live recordings by Yevgeny Svetlanov and the orchestra of which he was Chief Conductor for so many years, variously titled the USSR State Symphony or Academic Symphony orchestra, one could be forgiven for assuming that he was a conductor for whom precision in playing counted for little- but the truth is he that he had no option but to endure the lamentable standards that resulted, especially when non Russian music was being performed.
Strangely, considering the prestigious title of his orchestra, it was in fact “the poor relative” beside Mravinsky’s Leningrad and Kondrashin’s Moscow Philharmonic bands, starved of funds and with many of its antiquated brass section comprising instruments from the Stalin era and made of copper!
There exists a 1980’s recording of this trio of works performed by this team-live in concert-which is so indescribably awful as to be imbued with a sort of horrible fascination, when it is not actually hilarious!

Thus it was then I received the promotional e-mail from amazon about the “Weitblick” series of releases I initially hesitated to acquire this particular recording-also live but from the Beethoven Hall in Stockholm and in full digital DDD recorded sound. Of course, I expected the playing to better-it could hardly have been worse-but when I took the plunge I had no expectation of just how stunning playing, recording and above all interpretation would prove to be!

Svetlanov was allowed to guest conduct this superb orchestra from 1977 onwards, Sweden being seen as a “ neutral” environment-the unintentionally funny liner notes indicate that he conducted 147 concerts with them up to his death in 2002-and this splendid performance from 1999 amply displays all the Maestro’s skills in eliciting exciting and colourful playing combined with a great sense of musical architecture transforming these works from the rather derided showpieces of dubious merit into masterworks!

I have innumerable recordings of all the works, either as a trio or in different anthologies, but these performances have transformed my view of these works- I have been frankly astounded.

It starts with “Fountains”-after a beautiful opening, the grandeur which Svetlanov brings to the Triton and even more so to the Trevi Fountain by adopting a bold slow opening statement is nothing short of lump in the throat wonderful.

Feste Romane opens with scary lions, the dissonances in Respighi’s writing being emphasised and a cataclysmic finale depicting the awful slaughter followed by the most magically slow, offstage horn calls gradually dying away to leave the gentle lilt of the mandolin in the October Festival, and a riotously joyful finale,
The Pines is exceptional too, with admittedly the Nightingales being very forward and very loud-a quirk of the concert recording no doubt-to the point where they are in danger of becoming a nuisance (seriously, it’s very beautiful!) but then the March on Rome begins with a measured, sinister tread and acquires weight and grandeur as it processes. Magnificent!

Svetlanov imbues each note, each phrase with a meaningful gravity or exquisite lyricism just as is wanted-he conducts the music as if it were by Tchaikovsky and my goodness does it pay dividends!

The orchestra had been under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen until the year of this concert, a superb orchestra builder, and it shows in playing of outstanding virtuosity-I detected only one insignificant horn blip throughout-but of course the concert environment means that some details are obscured rather more than would be the case in a studio spectacular but this is of no import as the added intensity, grandeur and nobility that Svetlanov brings to these works to my ears eclipses ALL other interpretations!

Lovers of these works, newcomers and admirers of Svetlanov need not-and indeed should not -hesitate as the price is very modest-a real bargain.
Of course, highly entertaining alternatives abound, many in stunning sound and performed as a trio I could express admiration for the Muti/Philadelphia despite it being bass light, Sinopoli/NYPO, Ormandy/Philadelphia in remarkably good analogue sound and best of all Maazel/Pittsburgh recorded digitally but using the famous “2 microphone only” technique of the Mercury records era.
It is very difficult to fault!
(I’m not a fan of the Pappano which I find lightweight and in uningratiating sound.)
There are many others and these works generally come out well in most versions, but no other interpretation brings the revelations in detail-and in the stature- of the works performed.
Unreservedly recommended! Stewart Crowe.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Respighi let-down., 3 April 2014
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S. Mitchell (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Respighi: Fontana di Roma / Feste Romane / Pini di Roma (Audio CD)
I am sorry to part company with the two other reviewers of this disc, but in my opinion, as a lover of Respighi's Roman Trilogy for over half a century, and an eager purchaser of all new recordings of these masterpieces, there is no way this issue goes to the head of the recommendations list. True, Svetlanov's earlier performances with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra were a travesty and did his reputation no good whatever, as well as being an insult to the composer, who deserves artists of the finest quality, virtuosic playing of the highest order and sound which is state-of-the-art. Plus an organ, of course, for all three works. The skills of the Swedish orchestra here are far superior to the Russians, I agree, and the engineering is a huge advance. But listen - why does Svetlanov take 74 minutes over the trilogy, when the standard timing is about 61 ???? Answer - he adopts ponderous speeds which are almost ludicrous at times. These pieces need swashbuckling, no-holds-barred, hair-let-down, hell-for leather, go-for-it virtuosity - the kind Antal Dorati could conjure from his Minneapolis Symphony in 1954. Svetlanov drools and lingers lovingly over Respighi's divinely felicitous scoring and produces marvellous beds of richest orchestral sound in the quiet passages, but he needs to complement that with explosive excitement and edge-of-seat thrills when the music demands. Here, I could hardly believe what I was hearing at some points - not to mention inevitable coughing from a live audience and frequent moaning and groaning from the conductor. Respighi's art is perfect enough without additional intrusion from external sources. 2 other things about Pines: the pre-recorded nightingale in the 3rd movement is far too loud, and the very final chord of the last movement is prolonged far beyond what the score directs, though given the excitement of the live occasion, this is understandable and not unwelcome. Also, although the sound-quality is superb, I'm not convinced the balance is ideal, with its emphasis on bass frequencies sometimes at the expense of the string choir.
So , sorry, gentlemen. There are many preferable first choices out there in these wonderful pieces, and I would be sorry to think somebody interested in exploring them for the first time was being pointed in the direction of this particular CD.
It is a curiosity and reasonable tribute to the art of a great Russian conductor in his last years, but no great service to the marvellous composer whose stature and amazingly multi-faceted talent we have been coming to appreciate over recent decades. I fear this recording almost supports the sneering, supercilious pseudo-criticism of Respighi we used to hear 40 years ago.
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Respighi: Fontana di Roma / Feste Romane / Pini di Roma
Respighi: Fontana di Roma / Feste Romane / Pini di Roma by Ottorini Respighi (Audio CD - 2014)
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