Roger Norrington

Best of Stuttgart Sound

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As a standard bearer of the movement to present Classical and Romantic works in historically informed performances, Roger Norrington has established a reputation for consistency in scholarship and rigor in practice, though the actual musical results of his labors are a mixed bag. According to different tastes, his performances can range from marvelously authentic to oddly antiseptic, and depending on a given composer's music, his conducting can seem wholly sympathetic or utterly artificial. While some may endorse Norrington in Haydn, Mozart, and even some early Beethoven, particularly for the authentic sound of the orchestra, they may at the same time find him ill-suited in later post-Romantic works by Mahler or Tchaikovsky. As rationally argued as his positions may be on period instrumentation, orchestra size, and layout and appropriate tempos and articulation, his performances will either completely win people over or leave them cold; there's seldom any middle ground for opinions of this controversial conductor. In light of this problem, what could be a better aid to making up one's mind than a generous double-disc sampler of Norrington's performances with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra on Hänssler? The evidence is neatly laid out in 22 tracks that sample Norrington's recordings across the boards, showing him at his best in the finale of Mozart's Symphony No. 29, all the way to what may be his weakest in the Scherzo of Bruckner's Symphony No. 3. In between are the highs and lows, featuring whole movements or generous excerpts that show Norrington in his element or out of his ken. But in virtually all cases, the Stuttgart musicians are secure in their playing and Hänssler's recording quality is first-rate. So if there's any doubt about what Roger Norrington's interpretations sound like, try this collection before investing in his full albums.

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