The high concept behind this disc is to join together three romantic period works all composed around Shakespearean characters: Hector Berlioz's Overture to Béatrice et Bénédict drawn from Much Ado About Nothing, Edward Elgar's Symphonic Study in C minor on Falstaff based on the character from The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV Parts I and II, and Dvorák's Concert Overture Othello based, of course, on Othello. Such a concept can only succeed to the degree the performances succeed, and given the range of music from the high-spirited French sensuality of Berlioz's Overture through the robust English characterizations of Elgar's Study to the jealous Slavonic intensity of Dvorák's Overture, the chances for across-the-board success seem limited, especially since the orchestra here is the echt Deutsche Münchner Rundfunkorchester led by the New York born and bred John Fiore. But succeed it does -- and brilliantly. Fiore and the Munich players turn in a sprightly but sexy Béatrice et Bénédict, a tight and taut Othello, and best of all, an amazingly powerful and wonderfully moving Falstaff. Every department of the orchestra is remarkable, from the colorful winds to the silken strings, but best of all are the immensely responsive yet enormously muscular brass. Fiore proves himself a more than adept conductor: his interpretations are sensitive to the different national, emotional, and musical demands of each score, and he gives each work its own tone, its own character, and its own sound world. Captured in Orfeo's clear, deep, and full sound, this disc will delight anyone who cares about any of the music, any of the composers, or, for that matter, any of the characters.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Béatrice et Bénédict, opera, H. 138|
|Falstaff, symphonic study for orchestra in C minor, Op. 68|