The Grove entry
for Paisiello designates these concerti
as written for harpsichord. It's hard
to argue with Grove. But Paolo
Isotta, in his annotations for this
recording, makes a strong aesthetic,
rather than historical, case for the
piano as best capable of realizing the
full expressive range of these scores.
Certainly it's hard
to imagine the harpsichord or fortepiano
rising to the demands of the G minor
concerto, which stretches the expressive
vocabulary of the Classical form - Paisiello
as the precursor to Beethoven. The composer
immediately breaks ground in dispensing
with the customary extended ritornello:
after the strings' brief, dramatic introduction,
the soloist cuts in with the turbulent
theme, pacing a movement that, even
in its more lyrical episodes, suggests
a volcano barely held in check. The
Largo opens with a prayerful
string chorale, its chords widely spaced
and in weak, unstable inversions, after
which the piano enters in deep sorrow.
A later major-key transformation of
the piano's theme sounds less despondent,
but no more optimistic. The closing
rondo, with its obsessive short slurs
and anxious repetitive motifs, similarly
points toward Beethoven.
The appealing F major
concerto is more conventional. The zippy
outer movements reminded me of Haydn;
I hear the Italian's themes as having
a more immediate, "Mediterranean" melodic
appeal, but perhaps I'm stereotyping.
The central Largo is blandly
pretty in a sonatina-ish way, though
a passage of pizzicato accompaniment
at 2:23 briefly rouses interest. In
this piece, Paisiello supports the string
orchestra with pairs of flutes and horns,
filling in the textures effectively
while maintaining a clear, airy sonority.
In both concerti, Francesco
Nicolosi proves an adept and stylish
soloist, especially in his layering
of musical textures: the lyric melodies
sing with a pingy legato, the tick-tock
Alberti basses beneath shaped and balanced
so as to project the overall harmonic
progress. In the booklet, Isotta's attempt
to describe Nicolosi's playing without
getting mired in technical detail succeeds
only in clouding the issue. But you
can hear that the clean, articulate
manner of the F major concerto has been
amplified with a bolder, more heavily
weighted attack for the more ambitious
The overtures are more
or less what you'd expect. The one-movement
Sinfonia d'Opera (which opera?
Naxos tells us nothing) is cheerful
and formulaic. The Proserpine
overture follows the three-movement
format - think Mozart's K.318 - offering
a vigorous, excited opening, a graceful
if square minuet, and a sprightly gigue.
The chamber orchestra,
playing on modern instruments, offers
rich-toned, clear-textured support.
The low strings don't damp the sound
quickly enough on phrase endings, so
there's rather a lot of buzzy bass resonance.
The warmly ambient recording is pleasing,
though a few seconds' more pause between
works would not have been amiss.
see also reviews
Lace and Kevin