Verdi: Preludes, Overtures & Ballet Music

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COMPOSERS: Verdi
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Preludes, Overtures & Ballet Music
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Edward Downes
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9510
Verdi is one of those composers whose development progressed along a consistent path, so a batching together of the excerptable orchestral movements from his operas in chronological sequence offers a study in increasing technical sophistication. Gone, however, are the days when the earliest manifestations of his genius were simply written off as crude; the sheer energy of many of these pieces, as in the cases of their respective operas, is not to be gainsaid.

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The most effective items – Nabucco, Giovanna d’Arco, La battaglia di Legnano – tend to be the more self-contained and substantial ones. Admittedly they were not designed to be (and are probably not best appreciated when) heard in close succession, but Edward Downes’s conducting makes the best possible case for them – even the ballet music from Macbeth, which can rarely have sounded so compelling as it does here. In addition, the quality of the orchestral playing, as evidenced in the beautifully executed cello solo in the Masnadieri prelude, does a good deal to dispel any suggestion of the routine. George Hall