Top 10 Rossini recordings

Gramophone Thu 12th November 2015

Ten great Rossini recordings that would grace any collection

Gioachino Rossini's operas were immensely popular when they were first performed in the early 19th century, and many – most notably Il barbiere di Siviglia – remain so today. So it is no surprise that there are many fine recordings of his works, and though no list of 10 recordings could ever claim to be definitive, those included below are all outstanding. Many of the recordings – Il viaggio a Reims, Il turco in Italia, Matilde di Shabran, Ermione, Stabat Mater and Colbran, the Muse – won Gramophone Awards when they originally appeared and if you follow the links below each entry you can enjoy the original Gramophone reviews.

Il viaggio a Reims

Ricciarelli, Terrani, Raimondi; Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Claudio Abbado

(DG)

'Abbado's conducting is masterly. His ear for Rossini's sonorities cannot be faulted. The wind playing is exemplary and the string of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe wonderfully catch that peculiarly Rossinian sound, fire and ice at the same time. Rhythmically, Abbado is exceptionally brilliant; it is a very alert performance, passionate and precise in the Toscanini manner.' Read the review

Il turco in Italia

Bartoli, Vargas, Pertusi; Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan / Riccardo Chailly

(Decca)

'Chailly’s genius for the Rossini style has ripened with the years. His performance has daring and velocity, the music stripped for action, yet it is open-hearted and free-spirited: obsessive and funny. Did Rossini really take so much care over his orchestration in this slender diversion? I had not thought so until now.' Read the review

Matilde di Shabran

Massis, Florez, Taddia; Galicia Symphony Orchestra / Riccardo Frizza

(Decca)

'Here is treasure indeed: a memorable recording of Rossini’s grand, exhilarating, yet down the years too little noticed Matilde di Shabran.' Read the review

Ermione

Giannattasio, Bardon, Nilon; London Philharmonic Orchestra / David Parry

(Opera Rara)

'The new recording runs at white heat whenever Colin Lee’s Orestes is on stage. This is a fierce and brilliantly realised portrait of the erotically obsessed and emotionally unstable fall guy who reaps the tragedy’s final whirlwind.' Read the review

Stabat Mater

Netrebko, DiDonato, Brownlee; Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra and Chorus / Antonio Pappano

(Warner Classics)

'The recording, made in Rome’s superb Sala Santa Cecilia, is of demonstration quality, the thrill of the chase in that concluding “Amen” as perfectly rendered as the cloistered beauty of the supplicants’ distant chant in the “Eja, mater”. This is one of the great choral recordings.' Read the review

Colbran, the Muse

Joyce DiDonato; Santa Cecilia Academy Orchestra / Edoardo Müller

(Erato)

'DiDonato is proving herself one of the most delightful artists of our time. She sings with a rare purity of tone, ease on the high Bs, an impressive degree of technical skill and lively powers of characterisation.' Read the review

Il barbiere di Siviglia

Bruscantini, de los Angeles, Alva; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Vittorio Gui

(EMI/Warner Classics)

'It is a performance so astutely paced that whilst the music bubbles and boils every word is crystal clear. This – to take up Verdi's point – is a wonderfully declaimed reading of the score, but also a beautifully timed one.' Read the review

Guillaume Tell

Bacquier, Caballé, Gedda; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Lamberto Gardelli

(Warner Classics)

'Bacquier's Tell, rightly, is a sympathetically paternal figure, no fervid rabble-rouser; Gedda's Arnold makes up in sensibility what he lacks in raw virility (in ''Asil hereditaire'' he strikes exactly the right note of heroic regret), and Caballé, the loyal and skilled Rossinian, is a fine Mathilde, the manner regal, the tone limpid, the diction idiomatic.' Read the review

La Pietra del paragone

Ensemble Matheus & Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Parma / Jean-Christophe Spinosi

(Naïve)

'An utterly remarkable and fantastically enjoyable theatre-cum-video staging of Rossini's La pietra del paragone…In the annals of Rossini performance, this is an important and entertaining landmark creation.' Read the review

La Cenerentola

Donose, Mironov, Alberghini; London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski

(Opus Arte)

'This is a truly marvellous performance on all counts – staging, conducting and singing. Sir Peter Hall’s direction, his first attempt at Rossini, came in for some lukewarm reviews last summer. I cannot understand why. It manages to breathe new life into the routines without ever slipping over into farce, while exploring each character in some depth.' Read the review

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