All Rossini’s qualities as a musical giant are to be found in concentrated form in the famous overtures. The sheer vitality of the music is astounding, and the wealth of thematic material ensures that each is remarkable in its own different way. The Rossini anniversary of 2018 presented an opportunity to shed new light on these familiar works, but in a form that the composer himself would have recognised. This long-established mandolin quintet took a mix of old and newly commissioned arrangements and toured them across Italy to great success before making the present recording. The quintet takes its name from the mandolin virtuoso Giuseppe Anedda (1912-97) who popularised the instrument throughout his native Italy with his own ensemble and established for it a place in classical concert halls and modern works beyond the ‘early music revival’ of the 50s and 60s. He took part in pioneering recordings of Vivaldi and early performances of Stravinsky’s Agon. This all-Italian quintet (comprising a pair of mandolins, a mandola, guitar and double bass) was founded in Anedda’s memory in 2003 to carry on his work. Its members are all soloists and teachers in their own right. They commissioned Michele Di Filippo to arrange the first four overtures on this album: L’Italiana in Algeri (1813), Il Viaggio a Reims (1825), La Cenerentola (1817) and La Scala di Seta (1812). The other four overtures are from Il Signor Bruschino (1813), Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1816), Tancredi (1813) and La Gazza Ladra (1817), for which the quintet performs from transcriptions made and published in the first half of the 20th century by Mario Macchioci and Enrico Marucelli. All the arrangements preserve the heady excitement of the famous ‘Rossini crescendo’ as well as the chamber-like dialogue between wind and strings in the original scores.
Let me preface this review by saying I am a sucker for oddball arrangements of familiar classics. A group of eight Rossini overtures transcribed for mandolin quintet would certainly qualify as such. But this release transcends my own idiosyncrasies, for these arrangements work very well indeed, preserving the charm and liveliness of these frothy works and adding an extra dimension to them.
The sound quality of the recording is quite vivid and the brightness of the mandolins comes across quite well without being piercing. The placement of the musicians is quite precise in the wide soundstage. The ends of each piece do have a bit too much echo for my tastes. There’s no dynamic compression here, permitting the carefully mounted tension to grip the listener and not let go until the conclusion of each piece. There’s sufficient variety in the pieces that I didn’t feel any need to take a break between the different overtures.
In all, I found this disc tremendous fun and a creditable variation on these well-known works.
– MusicWeb International