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Recordings

Serafin: Overtures and Preludes
06 Apr 2008

Serafin: Overtures and Preludes

Timeless values of great opera conducting fill this disc of overtures and preludes, all conducted by Tullio Serafin.

Overtures and Preludes: Works by Verdi, Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Tullio Serafin (cond.)

Medici Masters MM 008-2 [CD]

$15.99  Click to buy

With three different orchestras (the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, and that of La Scala), Serafin covers some of the best music from four great Italian opera composers: Verdi, Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti.

The disc opens with 6 tracks of consummate Verdi. Fast, dramatic music, such as in the climax to the Nabucco overture, comes out rhythmically precise and urgent without hectoring or a reliance on speed. The moody textures that open the Traviata preludes (to acts one and three), as well as Aida, set the scene beautifully, with whispering violins and gentle winds.

Competent but colorless conductors can treat Bellini harshly, making the orchestration sound crude, perfunctory. Not Serafin. The overture and prelude to Norma both receive loving treatment, with details integrated into the thematic flow, and the melodies flowing easily. The disc only contains one Rossini overture, that to La Cenerentola, and so good is the performance that Medici Masters would do well to search around for a whole disc's worth of Serafin's Rossini: brightly colored, but never hectic.

The disc closes with Donizetti's overtures to Linda di Chamounix and Don Pasquale. As with all the performances here, Serafin's way with melodic material reflects his reputation for excellent work with singers. A singing line propels the music, and at the end of every selection, your reviewer can't help but anticipate the first vocal parts of these operas.

Serafin's love for this music, along with his respect for the composer, made him one of the greatest opera conductors of the 20th century. A fine tribute to his artistry, this disc won't face much competition as one of the most enjoyable of the year.

Chris Mullins

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