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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Péchés de Vieillesse: Volume 8
Prélude (from Musique anodine) [1:46]
Thème naïf et variations idem [5:46]
Plein-chant chinois [5:07]
Petite polka chinoise [4:21]
Chansonette [3:27]
Une Bagatelle [1:14]
Gymnastique d’écartement [4:43]
É chantillon de blague mélodique sur les noires de la manin droite [6:28]
Impromptu anodin [5:06]
Fausse couche de polka-mazurka [3:34]
Petite pensée [2:18]
Valse anti-dansante [6:50]
Mélodie candide [4:09]
Valse boiteuse [4:56]
Valse lugubre [3:43]
Petite valse de boudoir [3:18]
Une réjouissance [2:37]
Un regret [2:37]
Un espoir [4:03]
Petite fanfare à quatre mains [3:34]*
Stefan Irmer (piano); Jang Eun Bae (piano)*
rec. 29-31 October, 2006, Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen

This is the last volume of Stefan Irmer’s complete recording of the piano pieces from Rossini’s Péchés de Viellesse. Several previous volumes have been reviewed in these pages (see below). It has been an excellent series and full of relatively little-known delights. This final volume helpfully contains, by way of documentation, a finding-list by means of which one can look for a piano piece in a list arranged by the volumes of Rossini’s Péchés de vieillesse and discover which on which volume of Irmer’s series a performance can be found.
Since the time-span involved is so considerable it is worth reminding ourselves that after Guillaume Tell, written when he was thirty-seven years old, Rossini wrote no more works for the stage before his death at the age of seventy-six. What he did write, apart from the Stabat Mater and the Petite Messe Solennele, was the collection of what have sometimes been dismissed as “sort trifling piano pieces” (the phrase is Charles Osborne’s). The work of Stefan Irmer, Paolo Giacometti, Marco Sollini and others has surely made it clear that such a dismissive attitude is seriously mistaken.
Much of this music, mostly written in the last ten years of Rossini’s life, has a great joi de vivre; many of the pieces were played at the Saturday evening soirées that Rossini and his second wife, Olympe Pélissier, hosted in their substantial apartment in the Rue dela Chaussée d’Antin and in their villa in Passy. The works were not published during Rossini’s lifetime and only became more widely known from the mid 1950s onwards, when the Quaderni Rossiniani was launched by the Fondazione Rossini.
Certainly, much of this music is playful (which is not at all the same as mere “trifling”). It plays games with conventions, both musical and social; it playfully embraces such as influences and analogies as are provided by the music of, say, Mendelssohn and Schubert, Chopin, Liszt and Offenbach, sometimes in terms which suggest straightforward, sometimes in a spirit of gentle amusement, as he isolates and exaggerates features of style; it plays games, certainly, of complex irony, of irony upon irony, in tolerant amusement at the musical antics of himself and others.
Irmer is on particularly good form on this last volume, right inside the spirit of these pieces, his 1901 Steinway sounding thoroughly apt to the music and recorded very naturally in a slightly (but not over-) resonant acoustic. Particular delights include the (relatively) subtle sideswipes at fashionable dances in the Fausse couche de polka-mazurka and the Valse anti-dansante and the more serious (I think - Rossini’s rapidity and changeability of mind makes such distinctions difficult!) étude Gymnastique d’écartement. The Thème naïf et variations idem is a work which has elements of parody (of the whole genre of theme and variations) and yet also provides a kind of exemplar of how to make such a form work; Un regret captures a Chopinesque mood of nostalgic loss very beautifully (and without any hint of parody?); in the Mélodie candide he pulls off jest after jest. In the Petite fanfare Irmer and the Korean pianist Jang Eun Bae, as Monsieur and Madame, give an utterly delightful performance of a lively conclusion. I suspect that Rossini would have liked the sense of humour which ends an eight CD series with a fanfare.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to a fine series.
Glyn Pursglove

Reviews of other releases in this series
Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6 Volume 7 



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