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3.5 out of 5 stars11
3.5 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 18 July 2011
There is so much in Rossini's mammoth opera which hints at middle Verdi that those, who recognise Rossini in works like Barbiere and L'Italiana, will be amazed coming to this work for the first time at the sheer dramatic verve and musical depth to be found within it. Rarely done on stage because of the demands on the singers, particularly that of the tenor Arnold, I have only seen it once, in Paris in an excellent production with Thomas Hampson as Tell. I was impressed then by the sheer dramatic scope of the work. Of course, there are parts where you hear Rossini churning out standard stuff, but there is much wonderful music here.

The performance recorded live in Rome under the baton of Antonio Pappano, benefits from brisk speeds, which cover some of the duller patches in the score, particularly in the first act. Gerald Finley is a commanding presence as Tell and John Osborn, who I recently saw in another killer tenor role - Raoul de Nangis in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, is excellent and has a voice which thrills without sounding strained. Malin Bystrom is also fine as Princess Matilde although she cannot eclipse Caballe in the role on the old EMI recording.

In short, with excellent singers in the subsidiary roles, this is a performance which can be warmly recommended. I did not find a problem with the sound quality, playing the discs through a blu ray surround system.

Live performances of course have pitfalls and it is always irritating to hear calls of bravi! In the theatre it is fine but on disc such noises are a distraction on repeated listening - easy to remove - EMI take note!

I will not part with the old EMI studio recording with Bacquier as Tell but this new one, available at an exceedingly low price, can be heartily recommended.
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on 6 August 2011
Let me start by saying that this recording is a must-have. Tell is a great work, in which Rossini's typical signature Rossinianisms are mixed with new elements of grand opera and a certain Verdian quality. It is musically rich, engaging and a true musical journey (that ends in what is perhaps the opera's best moment - the hymn to liberty). On this account alone, do buy this box set.

The opera is well-served by Pappano, who has an unsurpassable feel for 19th-century Italian opera. The singers are impressive, all of them, and only Byström occasionally falls just a little bit short.

The only major issue that prevents me from giving this recording the full five stars is the recording quality - the sound is sometimes a bit dry, and it sounds as though it has been recorded in early-1950s mono. In 2011, this is simply ridiculous. Surely, the hall could have been miked better and the post-production team could have done a better job.
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on 14 July 2012
Caveat emptor: this is not a complete William Tell.

The cuts are, as a previous reviewer wrote, disfiguring: I would go one further and say that they are catastophic. The balance of Act IV is fatally destroyed: Rossini knew what he was doing and the trio, a wonderful piece, is vital before the triumph of Tell, as it is small-scale and voices the concerns of Jemmy, Edwige and Mathilde.

I am very surprised that Pappano condoned these cuts, which were perpetuated in the Prom performace, surely the place for absolutely complete renditions. Perhaps he was worried about over=time. The perfomance did not mention that there were cuts, the same as in the present recording.

As far as I am concerned, this recording is a huge black mark against Pappano and I will check with a score that future recordings are not surreptiously subject to cuts. I sold my copy in protest.
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on 15 September 2011
This is a fine recording with Gerald Finley outstanding but I'm puzzled by the disfiguring cut in Act 4. The libretto says it's scenes 5 and 7 that are cut but I think it's scenes 5 and 6 which include a trio for Mathilde, Jemmy and Hedwige and a prayer for Hedwige together with a musical build-up for the approaching storm and some helpful plot exposition. There's about ten minutes of rather good music gone and with someone as talented as Marie-Nicole Lemieux on hand it seems perverse to cut her only solo. Anybody any idea why this was done?
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on 19 July 2011
Complete recordings of this work, Rossini's great and final masterpiece, are very rare indeed - especially in the original French,so it may seem a tad ungrateful to not be bowled over by the experience. I have nothing but praise for Pappano and his Italian forces, they all give of their best. The live recording does not disturb me as much as it obviously has other reviewers, however I do take exception to some of the vocal contributions. Gerald Finley gives an indepth and superbly vocalised performance of the title role, in my opinion now the best on record, the smaller roles are well filled, but the leading tenor and soprano leave much to be desired to this listener at least. The much praised John Osborn has neither the heroic quality nor range for Arnold and is no competition for Pavarotti or Gedda, Malin Byström is frankly out her depth (whatever that may be) and gives only a vague impression of Matilde's character. Just compare her to Caballé or Freni, and you realise just how lacking in stature Byström's interpretaion is. A great pity. Those of you who already have the Gardelli or Chailly versions need not rush out to purchase this set unless, like me, you're a Rossini freak!!
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on 24 August 2011
The recording on offer is, first of all, a pleasure to have given the work's relative neglect. The playing is first rate and the singing is good all-round. Being the French version means it will get serious playing time at home for me. I first listened to the 1980 Decca version with Chailly (in Italian) and I have not heard a better recording than that. So I will disagree with the product description that this Pappano is only rivalled by the 1972 EMI one as the Chailly is top notch.
To go back to this recording I would add that the sound is not the greatest and EMI have let themselves down in this regard, spoiling an excellent interpretation by the artists. The soloists are very strong but I still prefer Ghiaurov, Milnes and Pavarotti to Osborn and Pertusi. The singing here sometimes feels robotic- great technically but lacking in natural phrasing and style.
I would definitely recommend this just not as the best ever.
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on 1 October 2011
I expected -- and truly wanted -- to like this recording. But I knew it was against fierce competition. Since it was released, the old EMI set with Bacquier, Gedda and Caballe has been one of my very favourite opera recordings. This new set has some undoubted felicities, but I see it best as a supplement the the more definitive earlier recording.

First the felicities:

Antonio Pappano conducts and muscular and energetic reading of the score. The overture is nothing less that rip-snorting, and the rest of the performance follows in the same vein. Indeed, it's much more exciting than the more measured and thoughtful conducting of Lamberto Gardelli on the older set. However, this set misses the grace and gravitas of Gardelli. Compare the first act Chorus (Hymenee) and its following ballet as an example.

Gerald Finley gives a splendid performance of the title role. His French pronunciation is impeccable, and, as always, he displays comsumate intelligence and musicianship in his singing. All this is presented in one of the most beautiful baritone voices of our time. Gabriel Bacquier is both more seasoned and dramatic, but Mr. Finley wins for beauty of tone.

John Osborne presents Arnold's youth and impetuosity in bright, ringing notes. Here, as with Tell, the voice is younger and fresher than the counterpart on the Gardelli set. But Osborn hasn't a patch on the sheer stylishness of Nicolai Gedda.

Now the pain points:

I found Malin Bystrom's voice to be rough around the edges, harsh and undiscplined. Her technique simply isn't up to snuff for the florid passages. I don't know what sort of singing is appropriate for her voice, but it certainly isn't Rossini. I wouldn't want to hear her in Donizetti, Verdi or Puccini either. Indeed, I don't care to hear he again. Full stop. I doubt that I shall ever again listen to this recording all the way through. I'd be too tempted to skip any passage with Mathilde.

Regardless of the motivations behind the performing edition, I seriously regret that the last act trio (Je rends a votre amour) for Mathilde, Jemmy and Hedwige is omitted. Not only is it one of the most delicious numbers in the score, but it's ommission makes the fourth act finale feel like a dash to bring an already long evening to a close.

In short, there is a great deal to enjoy in this set (despite the leading lady). So, don't buy it instead of the Gardelli recording, but as a supplement to the older version.
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on 27 August 2015
Unbeatable - and gets right around the unfortunate visual aspect to ROH performance of July 2015.
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on 14 July 2011
To put it short: Don't buy this CD, unless you are a collector. The musicians and singers are doing a fair job, and the music is great. But the recording is simply horrible. It sounds like it was recorded in a shoe-box or it is an old mono-recording from the 1930's. This is weird, because the recording is fairly recent, and obviously its a live performance. However, the only time you get the "live feeling" is when the audience applauds - when the music is playing the sound-engineers have managed to mute out everything. For starters I thought someone had messed with the settings on my amplifier, but no matter how much I turned, twisted and adjusted, it still sounded like the orchestra is playing inside a soundproof shoe-box. The two stars are given to purely to the artists, who despite the horrible engineering manages to convey a reasonable performance of Rossini's wonderful music.
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I suspect that following the Covent Garden opening night of their new 'production' there will be many, like me, who feel that the arrow in the picture should be a few inches lower.
I love skiing in both Austria and Switzerland and find the idea of depicting the Austrian side as Nazi rapists as highly offensive. Fortunately I did not buy a ticket and shall be boycotting the ROH for the foreseeable future.
Both BBC CD review and Ralph Moore lean towards the Gardelli and Chailly recordings and I have ordered both as I shall be hearing the opera on CD not in the opera house. Not quite as complete as the Naxos but four hours enough for most people.
This recording omits about half an hour of music. That is where the stars go. But I found all the singers entirely adequate without having had the opportunity to compare with others.
I have come to like having an unobtrusive audience on a recording.
The recording is a long way short of the best that Decca could produce in their heyday but it is easy on the ear. I use Quad stuff which is very revealing.
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