When compared to similar compilations of Rossini's best-known overtures, this 2004 Universal Classics reissue may not immediately impress with its standard selections and modest budget packaging. But Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields deliver these popular pieces with appealing color and exceptional playing, and these clean recordings from the mid-'70s still hold up well, even when compared with many digital discs with better production values. Marriner's brisk pace and the Academy's lean, light sound make Rossini's most famous overtures spry and amusing, and there is not a trace of bombast or orchestral thickness to weigh them down. The most striking of these performances are the overtures to The Barber of Seville, William Tell, and La Gazza Ladra, for they are played with crisp articulation and a fresh woodwind sound, not too far off from period timbres. The remaining overtures may be a little less arresting, though they are all played with the same attention to detail and are fine readings. Only the overture to Semiramide seems a little too slow, but that is a minor quibble for an otherwise enjoyable performance. Originally released by Philips, these recordings have been cleaned of tape hiss and offer pleasant sound for an ADD disc.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson