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Fritz Reiner has the right qualities for this music. With an impeccable ear and ruthless sense of orchestral discipline, he keeps Respighi's luxuriant scores under impressive control. In The Pines he has the flair and brilliance to allow the Chicago players a virtuoso display at the outset of the 'Villa Borghese' movement [listen -- track 1, 0:01-0:55]. A firm friend of Richard Strauss since conducting in 1919 the German première of Die Frau ohne Schatten at Dresden, he was equally admired by Stravinsky who thought the Chicago SO 'the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world' and Reiner himself 'a wonderful musician and such a fine technician'. So Reiner was entrusted with the first American performance of The Rake's Progress. The 'Catacomb' pines call forth all the most expressive subterranean noises in the Chicago repertoire, but even more impressive, perhaps, is the glum persistence of the tramping feet along the 'Via Appia' in the last movement [listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:03].

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Copyright © 15 October 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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