Performances throughout brim over with quicksilver wit and silky panache.
Michael Quinn 2009
Here's a more than welcome addition to the catalogue: an all too rare foray into Rossini's largely overlooked instrumental music in performances that fizz and sparkle with a winning effervescence.
Indeed, on the strength of this delightfully fresh and vital recording by the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their co-founder and music director, Iván Fischer, the relative neglect of this repertoire on disc seems a curious oversight altogether.
Proceedings get underway with a deliciously pert and poised reading of the overture to La scala di seta, its bright, buoyant woodwinds borne along by a knowing commentary from spirited gossipy strings. It's a clever idea to conclude with another overture, albeit one of a markedly different tenor. More substantial and robustly scored, Semiramide is no less colourful for all its opera seria credentials and is dispatched here with obvious spirit and bite.
In between, something of an operatic sweep and swagger can be found even in the G major String Sonata (one of six sonatas written over three days by the 12-year-old Rossini) and in two sets of Variations, one for clarinet, string quartet and orchestra dating from 1809, the second for wind quartet composed three years later.
While the sonata bristles and bustles with an abundance of youthful energy and excitement, it also revels in virtuosic demands that make much of the obvious debt to the dancing delicacy of Haydn and the playful ebullience of Mozart. The earlier variations interweave their separate instrumental elements together with an attractive melodic charm and sophistication that belies Rossini's youth at the time of writing them just five years after the Sonata. The later set is distinguished by lyrical, lightly textured writing full of unassumingly pretty detail.
The 1823 Serenata is a sweetly realised if undemanding septet shot through with nimble elegance, and Le Rendez-vous de chasse a lively hunting fanfare for horn quartet.
Performances throughout brim over with quicksilver wit and silky panache, the featured Budapest soloists eloquently illustrating the strength in depth of this fine orchestra in its third decade. On the whole, Fischer's tempi are winningly fleet and vivacious, and always vividly recorded.