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William Tell (Rossi) Box set

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (5 Nov. 2001)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Warner Fonit
  • ASIN: B00005Q4R6
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 526,840 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Good news or bad news first?
The bad news: This is a Mono version recorded in 1952 that has not been digitally remastered. What’s more, the quality is at its worst a few bars into the Overture (although it picks up in time for the well-known bits). The conductor, Mario Rossi, was a Rossini specialist but the performance is the standard interpretation of his day. Originally written in French as a Grand Opera for Paris, this is in the Italian translation with a lot of cuts: from four hours down to two hours forty minutes. The most serious cut is the meeting between Arnoldo and Matilde at the start of Act Three when Arnoldo turns his back on their love in order to fight for Switzerland. Even with the cuts, the opera is slow in places.
The good news is that Giuseppe Taddei as William Tell and Mario Filippeschi as Arnoldo are very good. There is a lot of good music and clever composition. The other bit of good news is, of course, the price.
I bought this because I didn’t know the opera. I wanted to get to know the story, structure and tunes. I wasn’t too bothered about the hi-fidelity or the artistic interpretation. If you fall into this category, I would say: go for it. It is a genuinely interesting opera: Rossini’s last, and his studied attempt to write a masterpiece in the newly fashionable Romantic style. He was successful in the attempt. Even in the only bit of the story we know about shooting the apple, Rossini builds up the tension well. There’s plenty of fury, stirring patriotism and rich sounds painting the Swiss pastoral landscape.
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Originally available on Cetra and now remastered by Warner Fonit or GOP, this will never be an audiophile's dream. Even by the standards of mono recordings of its era its rough,strident and congested in climaxes, but don't be put off by the wavering tape shortly into the overture as that is a fault which is only very intermittently present and for the most part it remains perfectly listenable throughout with a will. Obviously the sensible choice if you want "Guglielmo" rather than "Guillaume" Tell remains the more recent Chailly recording on Decca with a stellar cast; furthermore it is the full four hours rather than the standard two and three-quarter hours we get here, but the opera can have its longueurs when played full length and Rossini himself sanctioned cuts - hence the famous, possibly apocryphal, anecdote: when someone remarked to the composer that he had heard his opera the night before, Rossini replied sardonically, "What? All of it?"

Nonetheless this - presumably a one-off radio broadcast with no audience noise or applause - also features an equally stellar cast. In an age replete with great baritones - Gobbi, Bechi, Bastianini et al - Giuseppe Taddei's voice ranks with the best; he is intense and biting as Tell, delivering his aria - when he finally gets one in the famous apple-shooting scene - with smooth legato and burnished tone. Mario Filippeschi, last of a vanished breed of heroic lirico-spinto tenors more of the French Vezzani-Thill type - despatches his eight top C's and a touched C sharp with aplomb and no hint of strain, pace the observations of an earlier reviewer.
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