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Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, June 2013

ROSSINI, G.: Overtures (Complete), Vol. 1 (Prague Sinfonia, Benda) 8.570933
ROSSINI, G.: Overtures (Complete), Vol. 2 (Prague Sinfonia, Benda) 8.570934

…these new Naxos recordings are about as good as it gets.

I have to admit that I’m not the greatest fan of Rossini’s operas—apart from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Il Turco in Italia and l’Italiana in Algeri, I don’t know them all that well, so perhaps I should repair the omission—but I do very much enjoy the overtures when played with as much panache as they are here. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Lawrence Schenbeck
PS Tracks, April 2013

Sparkling tunes and timbres…in fizzy yet precise performances from the Prague Sinfonia and Christian Benda, captured in colorful, open sound. © 2013 PS Tracks Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2013

…Benda and the Prague Sinfonia Orchestra’s performances are an absolute delight, featuring playing that’s bright as a button and droll as those Rossini caricatures one commonly sees plastered on program posters and album covers. This first volume affords both a strong start and a strong promise for the most comprehensive and important survey of Rossini’s overtures since Marriner’s 1970s effort.That’s a definite recommendation. © Fanfare Read complete review

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, January 2013

The Prague Sinfonia Orchestra and Christian Benda have already recorded the complete Overtures of Schubert for Naxos on two well filled and utterly delightful discs…It was an obvious step to move next to the complete Overtures of Rossini which so obviously inspired Schubert. I am happy to say that this disc has many of the same very successful features of its predecessors.

There is real theatrical vitality in each of these performances, as well as grace and wit in phrasing. All of this is helped by having what sounds like an orchestra that is not too large and by a somewhat dry theatre-like acoustic. The wind and brass are forward but not excessively so and the principals play their many solos with real character.

The booklet has useful notes by Keith Anderson, together with the brief text of the partly sung Overture to “Ermione”. This is possibly the most remarkable work here, with the interjections of the Trojan prisoners within the Overture setting the scene for the opera itself. The Overture to “Le siège de Corinthe”…is especially striking with its central Marche lugubre grècque for wind instruments…the Sinfonia al Conventello…[is] a brief but delightful early piece using a theme later reused in the Overture to “Il Signor Bruschino”.

All of these…are played with real spirit and style and recorded clearly and cleanly. This is an admirable start to what looks like being a very desirable series. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review, January 2013

A Wagner opera can easily take four hours; Rossini’s complete opera overtures take about the same amount of time to perform. But what a different sonic environment they offer! The first of four CDs in a Naxos series conducted by Christian Benda showcases the many moods of Rossini…The Prague Sinfonia Orchestra plays these works with as much seriousness of purpose and intensity as they deserve, and lightens up considerably for La gazza ladra…Well played and, in the Ermione overture, well sung, the music on this CD bodes well for the other three in the series. © 2013 Read complete review

Christophe Huss, January 2013

It is interesting to note that the “baroque revolution”, which hit Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms or Schumann, and now even Wagner (with Norrington, who dares everything by thinking ​​“the bigger it is, the better it works ”), involved much more the symphonies than the concertos (eg the rarely “challenged” violin concertos of Brahms and Beethoven) and seems to have gone completely over the Rossini practice.

Not to mention vibrato or baroque habits, it is a real stab to simply perform degreasing the Rossini orchestra size. Imagine the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie cleaning Rossini’s overtures with aplomb, and especially reactivity. Nobody really thought of this (except Abbado with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in a rather dull CD). And yet…

Christian Benda and his Prague musicians show that the idea is excellent, and getting rid of the Karajan style “wall of strings”, we discover colors and counterpoint in this music full of accents. Without bragging nor brutality, Benda plays this rustic and refreshing game. In an overall just a little tangy sound, in order not to evoke any purring comfort, Benda gives a nice boost to the overtures and their discography.

We do not have here a CD featuring a “best of”program since this is volume 1 of a future complete set, but everything (see the transition to the coda in Otello) is approached with the same seriousness in articulation and clarity.

At the end of the course, if it continues at this level, Benda will be better and steal a march on his only rival, Neville Marriner on Philips. Thus another success for Naxos. © 2013

WETA, December 2012

…the Prague Sinfonia Orchestra is joined by the Prague Philharmonic Choir on this recording, and they are conducted by Christian Benda, who brings out a lively freshness from the musicians in these performances. © 2012 WETA Read complete article

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, November 2012

Yes, there is a lot of Rossini out there. Nevertheless…you’ll want to check out this first volume of overtures from Benda because they’re really quite good.

The program begins with three of Rossini’s most well-known overtures. The first is La gazza ladra (“The Thieving Magpie”), which Benda infuses with a stately elegance, going on to develop a reasonable amount of tension and excitement. What’s more, Benda handles the more lyrical interludes with a quick-paced grace. Next, we find Semiramide, in which Benda exploits both the urgency and the serenity nicely.

…we find Otello, Rossini’s recounting of Shakespeare’s play, the music typical of the composer’s work. Benda gives it a lively, dramatic reading.

Naxos recorded the music at the Kulturni Dum Barikadniku, Prague, Czech Republic, in 2011, and it’s one of the label’s best efforts of late. It displays a commendable dynamic range and impact, with a fairly clean, clear midrange and more-than-adequate bass and treble extension. The sound is…good and on a par with most of the best. The smaller forces of the Prague Sinfonia help to produce more lucid sonics than we might get from an ensemble twice its size, and the Naxos engineers do their part to ensure a wide stereo spread and a decent sense of depth and air. © 2012 Classical Candor Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2012

Rossini totally dominated Italian opera during the middle part of the 19th century, writing thirty-nine scores before his retirement from the theatre at the age of 37. The present project is to record over four discs the complete overtures, a recording made some many years ago from the conductor, Neville Marriner, placing them on three discs, and where they differ will become clear with ensuing volumes. Of course Rossini was not averse to recycling music, the most bizarre example being his later useof the overture to the highly charged story of the English monarch Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra, as his overture to the frothy comedy, Il barbiere di Siviglia. Many followed a familiar pattern, his use of a long string crescendo becoming a trademark of his style, the present disc containing many of his better known pieces opening in military fashion with La gazza ladra. Some were in the shape of a potpourri of music from the work to follow, others, such as The Barber of Seville, having nothing whatsoever to do with the ensuing story. The most extensive is Semiramide, a piece of symphonic length which brings together material that forms major moments in the opera…the playing of the Prague Sinfonia, under their chief conductor, Christian Benda, is first rate, the recording revealing a profusion of inner detail. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

David Hurwitz, October 2012

Up to now, the standard collection of Rossini overtures has been Neville Marriner’s correct but somewhat flat-footed series on Philips. This new project promises to improve on that set considerably. Christian Benda’s Prague Sinfonia has all of the discipline of Marriner’s ensemble, but with an extra sprightliness and vivacity—bright piccolo and wind sonorities plus crisp percussion—that the earlier set doesn’t match. There’s more sheer fun in the music making on this new release, a quality that’s fully in evidence and properly exploited, even in Rossini’s most serious music…

The selection of works is well chosen for maximum variety. Ermione, one of Rossini’s most remarkable and undervalued masterpieces, has an overture featuring choral interjections that are extremely arresting. The Sinfonia in D ‘al Conventello’ is an early work that predates Rossini’s operatic career, but reveals much of the composer to come. Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra uses the first version of what later became the overture to The Barber of Seville. The Siege of Corinth reveals the sophisticated composer of his last, Parisian period… © 2012 Read complete review

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