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David Hurwitz, May 2012

There are wonderful performances…Certainly Wit plays this music just about as well as any…and he offers an amazingly complete collection of works. Wit attacks these works with genuine theatrical relish: he knows how to bend a phrase without breaking it…this is a fine collection. © 2012 Read complete review

George Hall
BBC Music Magazine, April 2012

It is the sound of this magic horn that opens the overture of Weber’s fantastical work…[that] share Puckish melodies, lush orchestration and beautiful writing for woodwind and horns—instruments traditionally associated with forests, woodland and their mythical inhabitants. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, June 2009

The New Zealand [Symphony Orchestra], led by Antoni Wit, is proficient in Weber overtures (8.570296) and very impressive in Sibelius’s Night Ride and Sunrise and other pieces led by Pietari Inkinen (8.570763). Led by Peter Breiner, it plays suites from Janáček operas [Vol. 1 (arr. P. Breiner)—Jenůfa / The Excursions of Mr Brouček 8.570555, Vol. 2 (arr. P. Breiner)—Kat’a Kabanova / The Makropulos Affair 8.570556, Vol. 3 (arr. P. Breiner)—The Cunning Little Vixen / From the House of the Dead 8.570706].

Leslie Wright
MusicWeb International, March 2009

It is good to have a new collection of Weber overtures, especially at budget price, when such collections are less common than those of, say, Rossini. If not as brilliant as those, they are scarcely less worthy of exposure in their considerable variety…Particularly accomplished here are the accounts of Preciosa, Abu Hassan, and the Turandot excerpts. Wit brings out the humor, or should I say “wit” in Abu Hassan well, and Preciosa is also a joy. It is fun to hear the Turandot Overture and March in its original guise, since Paul Hindemith’s treatment of this music in his Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Weber is probably more familiar to many listeners…Even more rarely recorded are the overtures to Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn, Der Beherrscher der Geister, and Silvana. It is good to have them here. Then there is the Jubel Overture that concludes with “God Save the King”, heard somewhat more frequently than some of the others. As whole, this is a worthwhile collection. Presentation is up to the usual high Naxos standard, and the notes are clearly satisfactory.

Steven J Haller
American Record Guide, March 2009

Given that the overtures of Weber may be easily gathered together on a single CD—absent early efforts like Das Waldmädchen (only fragments exist today) or the stillborn Rübezahl, later reworked as a concert overture, Der Beherrscher der Geister—I find it frustrating that this is only the second intégrale to enter the catalog, following Neeme Jarvi’s uneven survey for Chandos (Jan/Feb 1993)…Antoni Wit will have none of Jarvi’s reckless abandon; tempos in Oberon are bracing, yet pointed—likewise Euryanthe and Jubel. Even better, Wit brings out the Mozartean delicacy of Silvana and the genial good humor of Peter Schmoll where Jarvi mindlessly presses on; he captures the Handelian nobility of the opening pages of Jubel, the gravitas of Beherrscher der Geister, the yearning lyricism that suffuses much of Euryanthe. Yet at the same time he hammers home the Janissary percussion of both Abu Hassan and Turandot more aggressively than Jarvi—he fairly sets the ear ringing…overall the Naxos acoustics reveal considerably more detail than Chandos. Certainly, given the meager asking price I’d have no problem recommending this convenient grouping as an estimable starting point for any Weber collection.

Raymond J Walker
MusicWeb International, February 2009

Of particular interest in this collection of Weber’s uplifting overtures are those from Der Beherrscher der Geister, Turandot, Jubel and Silvana. Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon need little introduction.

Those overtures from the forgotten Weber operas have shed their obscurity in the opera house for favourite status in the concert hall. Following Beethoven and Mozart, Weber’s works for the stage were considered fresh, and seen to carry a blend of strong orchestral craftsmanship, coupled with inspired lyricism and this is evident from the overtures.

In the various recordings of popular Weber overtures one is often aware of the presence of either a ‘robustly mechanical’ or ‘sensitive’ reading. Here, the New Zealand orchestra under Wit engage in delicate contrasts of mood coupled with a bright and clear recording. This puts them in the same league as some of the more prestigious recordings.

This is the first time I have heard Abu Hassan played with such vitality and speed. This approach certainly adds spice to Weber’s bustling score. The warm wind section in a fine acoustic—against subtly balanced shimmering strings—provides real appeal in their rendering of Der Freischütz. The Turandot music was completely unknown to me. Its simple pipe opening comes across as particularly British yet it was written for Stuttgart in 1809. I find from the notes that the ‘folk music’ opening was Weber’s interpretation of the Chinese idiom!

The elegance of Preciosa is charming with contrast provided by the sedate introduction and the energetically dynamic central section with crisply defined first violins.

One may be surprised that the Jubel Overture ends with the British National Anthem. This work however was composed after the Battle of Waterloo and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the then King’s accession. Its majestic opening gives the necessary pomp and splendour.

Antoni Wit is an accomplished conductor who studied in Krakôw and works with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and with Polish Television and Radio. We remember his excellent interpretation of the Prokofiev piano concertos and later of the Messiaen Turangalila symphony in 2002.

The notes in English are fairly generous and give more than adequate background to the overtures.

Gramophone, February 2009

Descriptive, colourful opera overtures.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, December 2008

Weber was a great tunesmith, and some of his overtures were on the same level of popularity (in the time before pervasive aural garbage) with William Tell, 1812 and the like. Polish-born and trained conductor Wit I’m sure is familiar with the tradition and style, but acquiring a ‘foreign’ accent in playing is not easy. The NZS players somehow do not convey the zest, lilt and swagger of these old and very central-European warhorses.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2008

Even in a brief life of forty years, Weber’s influence on the world of opera was considerable, and created a new style of composition that formed the basis of Germany’s rich heritage throughout the 19th century. The present disc offers a comprehensive survey of ten overtures used for his operas and stage works, the conductor, Antoni Wit, shedding new light on familiar war-horses of the concert repertoire. Opening with a fiery account of Euryanthe, the timpani outburst in Der Beherrscher der Geister is a typical example of Wit’s acute sense theatrical gesture. At the other end of the spectrum the delicacy of woodwind in the Turandot overture is magical, the nicely handled percussion effects showing that Weber’s idea of China had travelled no further east than Turkey. Wit does often inject something of his personal feeling towards the music, especially so in some unexpected slowing of the basic pulse, and he enjoys making us wait for that moment when he launches into some of Weber’s more juicy moments. But who could fail to enjoy his suitably bombastic ending to the Jubel overture, with its use of Heil dir im Siegerkranz—better known as the British National Anthem—while his Oberon is suitably mercurial. Some will question the slow tempi in the opening passage of Der Freischutz, but there is no shortage of impact later in the score. Throughout the New Zealand Symphony is on top form and well able to take comparison with the many famous German orchestras who have recorded the overtures. Likewise the sound quality is of the very highest order.

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