Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740-1816)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major [23:58]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in A major [12:44]
Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major [12:55]
Francesco Nicolosi (piano)
Campania Chamber Orchestra/Luigi Piovano
rec. Palazzo Reale, Caserta, May, November 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.572065 [49:51]

Barely heard these days, apart from occasional performances of his operatic intermezzo La Serva Padrona, Giovanni Pasiello was once one of the most celebrated composers of his age. The writer of some eighty-plus operas, his lengthy career included posts with the Neapolitan Bourbons, Catherine the Great of Russia and Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris.

This disc from Naxos is the second in a short series exploring Paisiello’s piano concertos. The first release featured his second and fourth concertos. This new issue includes numbers 1, 3 and 5.

While these works are of considerable charm and historical interest - standing solidly within the Classical period and recalling Mozart’s middle concertos - they are clearly not masterpieces either. Written primarily for the enjoyment of his patrons rather than to show off Paisiello’s own playing skills or inventiveness, these concertos reflect the original dedicatees’ tastes and abilities.

Concerto No. 1, for example, was written for harpsichord, and dedicated to an Italian lady-in-waiting to Catherine the Great. Although it is the longest concerto on the disc, it is also the simplest. Cast in three movements, it is a straightforward but pleasing work. The simple Larghetto (track 2), for example, has a plain but engaging quality, while the final Rondo includes some lively interaction between the soloist and orchestra.

The third concerto is the more complex of the trio, but it is also the shortest at under 13 minutes. The brilliant, playful first movement (track 4) ripples with tricky arpeggios which Francesco Nicolosi calmly takes in his stride. In contrast, the ensuing movements are a little disappointing. Both are brief and lack the sparkle of the opening Allegro. The final concerto, No.5, is equally bland. Although horns are added to the orchestra, they barely feature and give little extra work for the players of the Campania Chamber Orchestra.

Despite these reservations, this is a very listenable disc. The playing by both soloist and orchestra is lively and warm, and the sound recording is equally clear - despite the odd heavy breath or cough from either players or audience. At just under 50 minutes, though, the disc also feels a little underweight and would have benefited from more music by this intriguing but neglected composer.

John-Pierre Joyce