Unfortunately, this Respighi trilogy doesn't quite attain the magnificent achievement heard in this team's recording of the Korngold Symphony. It's well played. It's well recorded (although on the rich, plush side). And it's a multi-channel hybrid SACD - which we can't take for granted; they are becoming rare these days.
In many ways this reminds me very much of this team's earlier Escales collection - all very lovely and colorful, but not terribly exciting. John Wilson and the Chandos sound engineers go for atmosphere above all else. This makes for an enchanting, even magical, Pines near a Catacomb - with the superbly distanced solo trumpet (beautifully played) floating evocatively above the strings. But the finale, even with the extra brass, disappointingly fails to bring down the house as it should. It's smooth, civilized and thoroughly controlled. As is the final section of Festivals, where there is precious little festivity. But then again, the atmospheric central sections are very well done indeed.
Fountains is the highlight of this disc for me, which brings out the very best from this conductor's straightforward approach. Amazingly, this piece benefits enormously when freed from the excessive emoting and rubato so many conductors heap upon it. Respighi knew exactly what he was doing with his magnificent orchestrations, and Wilson lets it speak for itself. And he definitely gets the blood pumping in the 3rd movement (The Trevi Fountain at Midday), which builds to an overwhelming climax, with the organ making a colossal impact. Wow!
If only this adrenaline rush flowed as freely elsewhere. While the colorful atmosphere impresses greatly, I nonetheless came away feeling a bit blah - admiring the plush sound, but wishing for a more enthralling experience.