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Gioachino Antonio ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Complete Piano Music - Volume 4
Péchés de Vieillesse, Book 6 (complete): Album pour les enfants dégourdis [75:40]
Marco Sollini (piano)
rec. Campognogara, Venezia, 1-2 June 2002
CHANDOS CHAN 10520 [75:40]
Experience Classicsonline

I found myself in some difficulty when I reviewed the recent Naxos issue of 11 of the 12 pieces in this Book. On the one hand I wanted to encourage those who did not know this fascinating but too little known music to hear it, on the other the performance was little more than adequate, lacking the kind of idiomatic spark needed to guarantee understanding and enjoyment. I referred to it as being little more than a stopgap until a more idiomatic version came along, but I certainly did not expect how soon that would be. In short, the present version is all that one could wish in terms of performance, and in addition the recording is superior. To make pleasure complete, the whole of Book 6 has been included on the CD.

Rossini's writing for the piano is very individual. He was himself a fine pianist, and by the time he came to write Book 6 of his late pieces he was entirely at home in creating music whose character and mood are often ambiguous, and which is often capable of rapid change within pieces. A fair comparison would be with the piano music of, say, Poulenc or Ravel. For instance, the bizarre 'Memento homo' is a strange enough piece, possibly reflecting on the inevitability of death, but it is followed by another entitled 'Assez de memento: damsons', which casts fresh light on whatever thoughts of death there may be in the earlier piece. 'Une caresse à ma femme' certainly seems like a sincere tribute to his long-suffering wife, but somehow the caress is far from being unselfconscious, and this listener at least is left unsure of what is being conveyed. In one way, this can be seen simply as a set of delightful short(-ish) piano pieces, but in the right hands - as they certainly are here - their charm becomes more ambiguous and their character both firmer and more enigmatic.

The success of Marco Sollini's approach is due above all to his deft approach to characterisation and understanding of the idiom. He takes note of each of Rossini's directions and follows them not out of mere literalism but in order to find the fundamental character of each piece. The various sections of the delightful 'Un petit train de plaisir' are indeed 'comico-imitatif' as the composer completed in the title, but the piece as a whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

All of this is enhanced by an appropriately forward recording and interesting if quirky notes by Sergio Ragni. Unlike the (incomplete) Naxos version it is at full price, but for anyone wanting to explore Rossini's piano music or simply to enjoy music slightly off the beaten track, it is worth every penny.

John Sheppard




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