Orchestral Treats from an Operatic Great
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At mid-price, this CD represents a considerable bargain. I recalled this very special music from a now out-of-print Decca recording with Marriner and the SMFO, and I remember the performance as being especially suave and polished, as usual with these artists. Weil's top-notch period band brings, instead of suavity, raw energy and eclat. Gluck is the winner, I think--and so are we. From the buoyant Sinfonia to the dark, hurtling Chaconne portraying the terrors of Hell, this is music of much resourcefulness. The Chaconne finale, by the way, is lifted right out of Gluck's own Orfeo ed Euridice, but as H. C. Robbins Landon points out in his characteristically informative notes, it was the Don Juan finale that introduced German music to the Sturm und Drang movement in art. Chief among Gluck's imitators were Haydn and Mozart, no less. So Gluck's music is not only highly entertaining but of historical significance as well. Among other highlights are the gracious Gavotte (No. 7) and the Moderato (No. 19), a fandago in which keening, scalewise passages in the second violins slice through the orchestral fabric like the proverbial tocsin in the night--great stuff!Sermiramis is shorter and not quite so distinguished, but check out the grand Maestoso (No. 8) with its trumpets and drums or the very affecting pair of dances marked Affetuoso (No. 9a & b).As I said, the performances are as exciting as the music, and the sound is big and bright. In fact, the piercing clarino trumpets may need to be tamed a bit in playback on your system. But you'll appreciate the chilling rasp the old trombones lend to the Don Juan Larghetto (No. 30) and finale (No. 31). Latch on to this one, lovers of the Classical era in music!"