July 2, 2011 12:48 am

Rossini: William Tell


William Tell

Antonio Pappano

EMI (3 CDs)

4 stars

We all know the overture to William Tell but how often do we hear the rest? Rossini wrote Guillaume Tell (its original title) for the Paris Opéra – a big-boned work that lacks the sentimental hits we associate with his comedies.

What comes across in this excellent French-language recording from Rome is its native Italian inspiration, its melodic variety and magnificent choral ensembles. Pappano’s brisk tempi and light textures give it a fast-moving, easy-to-digest feel, almost contradicting the work’s grand-operatic status.

The Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia respond as if they love the music – they bring it to the Proms on July 16 – and there are distinguished contributions from Gerald Finley in the title role and John Osborn as Arnold, the high-flying tenor. Only Malin Bystrom’s pallid Mathilde fails to impress.

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