Here's a surprise. A little-known French regional orchestra playing Mozart and Rossini with real enthusiasm, tight ensemble, and a thoroughly appropriate light and sparkling sound. These live performances from the 1990 Pablo Casals Festival are completely enjoyable. The two symphonies are full of spirit. The strings play cleanly together and the wind balance is just right. The interpretations by Patrick Fournillier have that desirable mixture of intensity and dancelike ease; especially in the G minor symphony, which too often becomes an overblown angst-fest. The horn soloist, Radovan Vlatkovic, does an excellent job with the Third Concerto--musically tasteful, technically polished, and with a beautiful sound that never even threatens to become brassy. Rossini's Il Signor Bruschino
overture is clean as a whistle and effervescent as a bottle of champagne, and has crescendos that actually keep getting bigger instead of peaking early and losing steam. The cameras move around but not too much. Mr. Fournillier is of the closed-eyes, open-mouthed, slightly pained expression style of conducting, but to balance it out he sure can bounce around. Many of the string players are easy on the eye. The St. Michel de Cuxa Abbey, where the concert was played, looks a bit strange--large enough to dwarf the orchestra, lit with an eerie orange glow, and constructed of stone walls that, when used as a frame for stationary musicians, tend to be reminiscent of an execution by firing squad. Even so, it's a pretty good disc. --Seth Krimsky
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Symphony No. 29 in A Major," "Symphony No. 40 in G Minor" and "Concerto No. 3 for Horn and Orchestra in E Flat Major," plus Gioacchino Rossini's "Il Signor Bruschino (Overture)" are performed by the Picardy Sinfonietta Orchestra, conducted by Patrick Fournillier.