C0037. RICCARDO MUTI Cond. Filarmonica della Scala: Puccini, Catalani e Ponchielli - Per Orchestra. Sony 63025, recorded 1997. Final Copy! - 074646302521
“Interest in the nonoperatic scores of Puccini, Catalani and Ponchielli may not be high, but that knowledge hasn't stopped Riccardo Muti and Sony from devoting an album to such music. And indeed, the works here have appeal.
Sure, Amilcare Ponchielli's expectedly slow-moving ‘Elegia'’ sounds like any number of Italian opera intermezzos, but the Filarmonica della Scala, under Mr. Muti's baton, plays it lushly and colorfully. Two works by Alfredo Catalani follow: Scherzo, coupling humor with attractive Classical elements, and ‘Contemplazione’, cloaking contrived earnestness in a Wagnerian style.
But when listeners come to the three Puccini items, ears will prick up. The ‘Preludio Sinfonico’ in A practically sighs with desperate lyricism and muted grandeur, and the Scala musicians play it with all the passion they traditionally summon for this composer's operas. In the romp of ‘The Witches Sabbath’, Mr. Muti pulls out the stops on the brass and percussion to great effect. The ‘Capriccio Sinfonico’ yields other pleasures, chiefly the startling appearance of music Puccini later used to open LA BOHEME. Here it comes in the middle of a majestic and sentimental work that the orchestra plays with gusto and heartbreak.”
- David Mermelstein, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 30 Aug., 1998