ROSSINI Complete Works for Piano Vol.3 – INKPOT
Complete Works for Piano Vol.3
“Un petit train de plaisir”Prélude blageur
Des Tritons s’il vous plait montée-descente
Mélodie italienne: une Bagatelle ‘In nomine Patris’
Petite Caprice style Offenbach
Échantillon de Blague mélodique sur les Noires de la Main droite
Échantillon du Chant de Noël à l’italienne
Marche et Réminiscences pour mon dernier Voyage
Un petit Train de Plaisir, comico-imitatif*
PAOLO GIACOMETTI piano
*with Tido Visser voice
Erard 1849, from the collection of Edwin Beunk.
Liner notes by Paolo Giacometti translated by David Shapero.
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS 16098
by Benjamin Chee
This album of piano works by Rossini is third in a projected series which will cover all his piano music. The pieces here are taken from three various collections, Miscellanée pour piano, Album pour les enfants dégourdis and Album pour piano, violin, violoncelle, harmonium et cor – all late works written by Rossini after the age of sixty-five, or what the composer himself jokingly called Péches de Viellesse, the ‘Sins of Old Age’.
One wonders if these aren’t sins as much as (if you will excuse the pun) indulgences; idiomatically characterized, tasteful to a fault, and performed impeccably by Paolo Giacometti, who also provides the programme notes. Rossini had a singular self-deprecatory wit, which is reflected in his music: calling his pieces Valse Torturée (‘Tortured Waltz’) or Des Tritons s’il vous Plaît (‘Some tritones, please’), and not without a sense of irony and also a certain programmatic unity between the music and its title.
It does make one wonder why most of Rossini’s music has been so much overshadowed by his operas and their overtures, and so little outside this genre has been heard or performed. His early string sonatas definitely also fall into this category, as does his choral music and songs. In the Péches de Viellesse alone, Rossini produced over a hundred and fifty objets d’art of which fourteen are recorded here.
If this album is a little train of pleasurable delights, then Giacometti must be the engineer and his period 1849 Erard pianoforte the engine which pulls it along. With firmly refined technique at his fingertips that bring out the bon vivant melismata and rich sonorities in the music, Giacometti proves himself as a worthy advocate in this recital.
The Petite Penseé is sharply etched with much delicacy and its character well-invoked. The following Une Bagatelle, as the name suggests, opens with a grand introduction that leads into an elegant swinging rhythm. The lyrical but diminuitive Mélodie italienne is shaped by Giacometti’s bold use of rubato and agogic rhythms.
Of the famous Petite Caprice in the style of Offenbach – Rossini intended this as a parody of the Frenchman, so much in popular vogue at the time. There are feliticious roulades of glissando which are tossed off with much élan; no less than what one might reasonably expect, even if the reading is somehow permeated with an unspoken reservation of sorts. In a broader context, the flow of the music could have been smoother along the edges and less raucous – as also with the Mélodie candide, two tracks later.
But in the Échantillon de Blague mélodie, Giacometti does not miss the mark in capturing the humour of the “melodic nonsense”, nor does the Impromptu tarantellisél fail to be anything but a joyful scamper from the keyboard. Rossini’s musical will, as it were, comes in the form of the Marche et Réminiscenes, with a funeral march interspersed by quotations from The Barber of Seville, Otello and a certain gallop famously from the overture to William Tell: Giacometti delights, as usual.
The final work, Un petit Train de Plaisir, for which the album is named, gets an added bonus in the form of a narrative voiceover, albeit in French, by vocalist Tido Visser. This piece of programme music tells of a tragicomical train journey – I’ll have to think twice before qualifying it as something “for children” – and Giacometti here has chosen to add snippets of spoken narrative by Visser to describe the action so that the listener “does not miss a single moment of this absurd story.”
These episodes include: the train’s departure, arrival at the next station, derailment of the train, two casualties, one dead person in heaven and another dead person in hell, a dirge, and the mockery of the grief of nexts-of-kin, ending with the commentary, “All of this is more than silly, but it is true.”
It is probably with less silliness and more good intention – and how often have we heard that aphorism about good intentions and the pathway to you-know-where – that Giacometti has chosen to sprinkle his pianism with a spoken voice, but this really is an idea which works better in the spontaniety of live performance than on a recording. The dramaturgy of Giacometti’s reading alone is more than sufficient to draw a persuasive and clear sound-picture of the tragicomic train ride.
The reification of text, then, is quite unnecessary – even distracting – and, I have to say, takes some getting used to. Visser, to his credit, does an admirable job of narration and perhaps French-speaking listeners may experience a less adverse reaction.
All in all, this is a delightful cornucopia of high spirits and child-like enjoyment conjured by Giacometti’s ample pianism. The recording is dry and boxy, which does not always favour the period timbre of the piano. Still, this is an engagingly commendable disc, generous in timing, and not an entirely bad starting point for those interested in the piano music of Rossini.
BENJAMIN CHEE goes to watch Starlight Express whenever he’s in London. (Sentimental reasons, long story.)
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811: 16.01.2001 Benjamin Chee
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