Melvyn M. Sobel | Freeport (Long Island), New York | 12/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Respighi (1879-1936), whose major "claims to fame" are thrilling orchestral "impressions," is a composer whose works require just the right finesse, just the right coaxing, just the right balance ...because in the wrong hands they can become boisterous, overly similar and coarse. Under the tutelage of a master conductor, however, a conductor whose depth of understanding and persuasion reveals detail that we never realized existed... we hear afresh.
Such is the case with Dutoit at the podium: every nuance comes clear, every pictorial thrill emerges as if out of hiding, every new vision titillates us, haunts us.
In these performances, Dutoit is a magician of light and shadow.
Listen, for example, to the sunny, brilliant opening "Pini di Villa Borghese" of THE PINES OF ROME... which flows ever so subtly into the catacomb darkness of the following second movement "Pini preso."
Listen further to the agony wrought in the FESTE ROMANE "Circenses," the anguished, pleading cries of Christians being thrown to lions in the arena of the Circus Maximus... as Roman trumpets bray their obvious hubris. This is a performance to make your skin crawl!
Then seque back to the fourth movement "Pini della Via Appia," of THE PINES OF ROME, as the Roman army parades along with incredibly brilliant flourishes--- victorious and prideful.
Light and shadow... and shades in-between, as well, as you have never heard before. Listen to the interplay of clarity and mystery Dutoit weaves throughout Respighi's FOUNTAINS OF ROME. We hear daylight come to the fountains at Giulia Valley, morning at the Triton Fountain, midday at Trevi and, as the bells toll, the sun finally sets at the Villa Medici.
Dutoit gives us absolutely inspired readings, and the OSM incisive playing, with gloriously vibrant sound to equal their combined vision.
For those of us jaded by lukewarm Respighi, this CD is quite the antidote!
[Running time: 60:24]"
Pini di Roma - An Incredible Technical and Artistic Triumph
Richard K. Radek | Chicago, IL USA | 09/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"People will not always have the same impressions of music performances because we have different preferences, experiences and musical backgrounds which shape those impressions. I happen to be a musician with performance, teaching and conducting experience, but I have never attempted to write criticism. Music can be such a subjective thing, and many others' opinions are just as or more valid than mine. However, I cannot imagine there can be any disagreement that Decca, Dutoit and the MSO have the finest performance of "The Pines of the Appian Way" ever recorded. This CD is a virtual test disc for audio equipment, and the performance is a model for all musicians to emulate. As everyone knows, the Appian Way begins quietly and builds progressively to the finish, somewhat in the fashion of Ravel's "Bolero," but much more so. Recording engineers are challenged in trying to capture such pieces as these, where the dynamic range is extreme and a lot of exotic percussion is scored. Orchestras have trouble playing as loudly as Respighi demands without losing balance, control and clarity. In this recording, nothing registers except success. Even when the ensemble is pegging the decibel meter needles, the orchestra's sound is still transparent. You can hear horns, clarinets, violins. You never lose the lines each instrument group plays, even when 30 or so brass and percussion players are doing their best to blow out the back wall of the hall. Early on you will actually feel the bass drum (if your reproduction equipment, especially your loudspeakers, is good enough) as much as hear it. There is never any distortion, and there is always perfect definition of the sound. It is a unique and remarkable recording. Those engineers should have won some sort of award for this one.The accomplishment of the engineers would gone for nothing, though, if the performance they captured had not been good. This performance of the Appian Way is beyond good; it is amazing. Maestro Dutoit's tempo is not stodgy. He does not let melodic elements get buried by the weight of the accompaniment. This is no easy feat, because the accompaniment gets plenty ponderous. When instruments enter, Dutoit measures each entrance so that the players do not immediately dominate the ensemble. As the instrumental texture and dynamic grows, the balance remains even and disciplined. When the orchestra reaches and passes the point of double forte, Dutoit and the ensemble cross the threshold into the extraordinary. The playing is not just loud and brilliant, becoming more loud and brilliant until the last cymbal crash; none of the musical elements are never lost. Each ascending phrase in the winds builds subtly in each eight-bar incrument. The piece does not become static. Yes, the sound gets huge, like it's supposed to, but Dutoit never allows the sound to collapse into brassiness or shrillness. When this piece really cranks up, the brass are just about blowing the seat of their pants through their horns, the srings come dangerously close to breaking their instruments in half with the force of their bows, and the percussionists are risking putting their mallets right through the heads of the drums and whatever else they are beating (and the woodwinds are wishing they started on some other instrument). That they all retain such musicality while doing this is evidence of very fine talent on the part of the players (and maturity on their parts, as well, the woodwinds will say). The sound is big, but not forced.I do not mean to slight any of the other works on this disc. Everything is played marvelously well and with precision. But this Appian Way is simply the best performance recorded to date of an intrinsicly difficult piece to perform, conduct or record, and should not be missed."
Definitely Most Thrilling on Pines of Rome!
Shota Hanai | Torrance, CA | 06/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Pines of Rome performed by Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Orchestra is definitely the most thrilling performance I ever heard, since previous recordings I heard; Ormandy's recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra is the most beautiful and heart-warming, Karajan with the Berlin Phil is the mightiest, Sinopoli with the New York Phil is the slowest yet the boldest, and Maazel with the Cleveland Orchestra is very well played, especially the lengthened climatic final chord of the piece, which gave me tears. Any of the performance, although have specific musical taste, is fine, but I recommend you to buy Dutoit's performance. His musical taste is related to Maazel, with a hyped up roar of the tam-tam almost like Bernstein. It is very tightly and lightly played, unlike the mighty Karajan and the bold Sinopoli. Unlike Ormandy, who supposedly played delicately with the strings and the flutes almost being even as the powerful brass, Dutoit and his orchestra performed with much hysteria and fury. But on the other hand, I recommend you to buy Karajan for Fountains of Rome, and Bernstein for Roman Festivals. Dutoit's pomp pales a bit from Karajan's mighty performance, especially the third movement. And Bernstein's performance on Roman Festivals, I guarantee, is more violent, more thrilling, and hysterical than Dutoit's effort."
The Total Experience
Kim Jones | Sydney, Australia | 05/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra usually give a flawless version of whatever they attempt and this recording is no exception. Lovers of Respighi's "Pines of Rome" will find this recording stacks higher in terms of power and clarity than the almighty versions of von Karajan and the Philharmonia Orchestra, long thought to be untouchably awesome. Following the performances with the orchestral scores will reveal to the eye the virtual perfection of balance and dynamic range that the ear can already hear. If anyone rates a performance of "Roman Festivals" higher than this one in terms of excitement, please let me know. Anyone who has seen and admired Ridley Scott's epic film "Gladiator" should get to know these wonderful scores of Otterino Respighi, a true Roman composer who had the flair and feel for the beauty and savagery of this ancient civilisation, as well as the genius to translate it into musical terms. Hollywood film composers bow down low in humility before the name Respighi as well they should. A superb and timeless version of the marvellous Roman trilogy of orchestral panoramas awaits you on this CD."
J. Buxton | Waltham, MA United States | 08/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my opinion this is a special recording of these three famous symphonic poems. The performance captures the pictorial quality of the music very well, as it does the power and symbolism. The Montreal brass in particular are captured wonderfully, and the Orchestre as a whole is to be praised for its brilliant performance. The final movements of both "The Pines" and "The Festivals" contain some of the most exciting music making on disc. This recording itself is of a similar high quality to most Montreal recordings for Decca, and it is remarkable how consistently excellent their recordings are across the spectrum of composers. Dutoit/Montreal and the Decca team of engineers have developed a wonderful tradition, and this recording is one of the best examples."