INKPOT#88 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: ROSSINI Complete Works for Piano Vol.2 “L’Album pour les Enfants degourdis”. Giacometti (Channel)
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Complete Works for Piano Vol.2
“L’Album pour les Enfants degourdis”Mon Prelude hygienique du Matin
Une Caresse a ma femme
La Savoie aimante
Fausse-Couche de Polka-Mazurka
Un Enterrement en Carnaval
Assez de Memento, Dansons
PAOLO GIACOMETTI piano
Erard 1849, from the collection of Edwin Beunk.
Liner notes by Paolo Giacometti translated by David Shapero.
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS 13898
by Soo Kian Hing
Rossini (left) may be better known for his operas and overtures, which have become staples in the repertoire of many orchestras over the world. Yet, there is a vast treasure trove of his own works for piano which have been long overshadowed by his powerful operas. Rossini was a respected composer in high society, and in the last 13 years of his life he stayed in Paris. There he composed the Pchs de vieillesse (“Sins of Old Age”), thirteen volumes of varied music, including the twelve pieces featured in this disc, taken from L’Album pour les Enfants Degourdis (or “Album for Quick-witted Children” – a rather quaint title).
None of Rossini’s witty sparkle is lost in his piano works, which amply demonstrate his command of pianistic writing. In fact, Rossini often played the piano himself for social evenings where he entertained guests in his later years. His operatic style is cleverly adapted for the piano, with the charming result closer to Mozart with an expanded harmonic and dramatic flair, than to fiery Liszt in his Wagnerian opera-fantasies.
29-year-old Italian pianist Paolo Giacometti is renowned in the Netherlands, where he studied at the Amsterdam Sweelinck Conservatory, for his numerous awards and competition successes. In this second volume of Rossini’s complete works for piano, he introduces us to the splendour of the composer’s style realised through ebony and ivory.
The collection opens with Mon Prelude hygienique du Matin, which means “fresh and lively” (accordingly to the liner notes, compiled by the pianist himself). Giacometti has an irrepressible spring in his fingers, tempering the dramatic weight of this stoic opening with a spritely brilliance and sparkle so characteristic of Rossini. This get-up-and-go spirit gives way to an affectionate intimacy in Une caresse a ma femme, in which Rossini pays tribute to his wife. The 1849 Erard used in the recording gives a smaller sound than modern concert grands, allowing this tender but playful evocation of romantic love to sound pure and simple. Giacometti’s phrasing is at once effective and appropriate in bringing out the character of these and the other pieces.
Chansonnette, Barcarole and La Pesarese are Rossini’s musical recollections, containing Italian songs from his youth, the third particularly from his birthplace, Pesaro. The Prelude baroque and the Fausse-Couche de Polka-Mazurka are dance-forms: the first is a waltz reminiscent of early Chopin and the second is a cross between a polka and a mazurka. All play on harmonic invention and melodic drama, rather than use difficult rhythms as did other virtuosic composers. However, Giacometti adds the unwritten effects of phrasing, accelerandos and rubatos, making these brief pieces endearing gems indeed.
La Savoie aimante is likened to a social commentary, for it symbolises the unification of Italy by the King of Savoy, Victor Emanuel II with the help of Napoleon III. Set in minor key, a remote but steady march introduces us to the sun-soaked Italian countryside. The march then modulates to a major key, valient and forward-looking, heralding the arrival of the Zouaves, a French mercenary regimen from northern Africa under the employment of the King to help fight his battle. Finally, the regimen passes, and the remnant ghostly trail merges into the countryside as the minor key returns. Giacometti is precise yet impassioned in his recount of this historical scene, giving us an unrelenting march rhythm while rousing the listener’s spirits with the Zouaves’ resolve as soldiers; his minor-key depiction of Italian countryside is also chillingly accurate with an unsettling foreboding.
Un enterrement en Carnaval is the other programmatic piece in this collection. Contrasting a carnival with a funeral, Rossini writes a funeral march in the tradition of Chopin and Beethoven in their piano sonatas. Giacometti is appropriately solemn and nostalgic during the funeral, while at the end, after a pause, he leads us into the bright sunlit merriness and cheer of the carnival with jugglers, clowns and ferris-wheels.
Memento Homo, a dark and sombre Lisztian reflection, is an epic homage to the inner mind and pathos of mankind. Giacometti makes full use of the lower register in the piano to create a resonsant introspective account, then in the next piece, Assez de Memento, Dansons launches into a simple rustic dance that climaxes in a momentous whirl. The collection ends with Etude asthmatique, a grandish toccata that whisks off into machine-gun short phrases, while losing none of Rossini’s melodic invention. The virtuosity of this piece does not faze Giacometti as he spins off the whirring notes while maintaining the captivating melody line.
As Giacometti points out in his liner notes, the aging Rossini was a happy man, resplendent in his witty humour. Giacometti is amazingly flawless in his portrayal of Rossini’s wit and drama, giving appropriate phrasing and dynamics to each piece, an extremely important aspect when playing pieces of an operatic nature. He shares the same freshness of youth and idea of fun, so that the melodies sing and breathe with life, and never misses a dramatic moment. The 1849 Erard piano allows Giacometti to draw the listener in with a lighter but more private sound than a modern grand would be able to, giving us a revelation of the Rossini who, has turned from writing his delightful operas to writing short character pieces for amusement, an outlet for his bubbling spontaneity and sense of fun.
In Singapore, Channel discs can be purchased (or ordered) from Borders (Wheelock Place) and HMV (The Heeren).
Soo Kian Hing wishes he had an 1849 Erard.
or Visit the Inkvault archives!
617: 27.12.1999 SOO Kian Hing
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