Overtures, Preludes & Intermezzi

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Overtures, Preludes & Intermezzi

Decca 483 1148

The 64-year-old Milanese maestro – I once had the pleasure of seeing him conduct live – has been a Decca recording artist for almost 40 years and achieved over three million album sales, including much acclaimed box sets of Brahms and Beethoven symphonies*. Here he celebrates his appointment in January as Musical Director of Teatro alla Scala, Milan, one of the world’s most famous opera houses and where he made his conducting debut in 1978. The album marks a splendid homecoming with a 76-minute programme of orchestral music from three centuries of operas that, with the exception of ‘Pagliacci’ and ‘I Medici’, were first performed at La Scala and includes music by Donizetti, Ponchielli, Puccini, Rossini, Verdi and others. It is not just ‘fill-in’ music but pieces that play a key part in the operas as a whole. Some of the 14 tracks such as Dance of the Hours from‘La Gioconda’ are familiar, others less so (I especially enjoyed discovering Prelude to the Prologue of Boito’s ‘Mefistofele’ with its plangent brass) but all are strong on melody. A Sunday Times review opined: “Chailly and the orchestra of La Scala Milan are surely a match made in heaven.” That’s good enough for me; and an added incentive to buy this rather special release is the HMV shop price of £9.99 betters Amazon.

Peter Burt

*Decca 4785344 and 4783492

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