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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Péchés de vieillesse - Volume VI
Album pour les enfants dégourdis Nos. 1-10 and 12 [78:00]
Alessandro Marangoni (piano)
rec. Auditorium di Martara, Pavia, Italy, 13-16 May 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570766 [78:00] 
Experience Classicsonline

Many general musical histories give the impression that after Rossini’s retirement from writing operas in 1829 he wrote only minor works apart from the two large sacred works – the Stabat Mater and the Petite Messe Solennelle. Certainly the majority of the music contained in his two main collections of music written after that date – Les Soirées Musicales and Péchés de Vieillesse consist of relatively short pieces. Despite their titles as a whole they are not trivial or unenjoyable. Respighi made an astute decision in choosing to orchestrate a number of them for Le Boutique Fantasque and Rossiniana. Anyone who enjoys those arrangements is likely to want to get to know the remainder of the collections from which Respighi made his selection.

The present disc contains the majority of Volume VI. No 11 –“Étude asthmatique” – will apparently be included in a later disc in Naxos’s intended complete Rossini piano music. The music we have here is full of variety, invention and wit. The longest piece, for instance, is entitled “Un petit train de plaisir, comique-imitatif”. It describes a train journey made by the composer, starting with the bell announcing the arrival of the train, getting aboard, the journey, and a satanic whistle before arriving at a station where “Les Lions Parisiens offrant la main aux Biches pour descendre du Wagon”. The journey continues but is stopped with a terrible derailment in which two people are mortally wounded, one going to Paradise and the other to Hell. A funeral march is followed by a cheery dance for their heirs. Like so much of this composer’s music there is a very knowing uncertainty over how it should be taken, but that it is a piece of real music and no mere joke I am in no doubts. 

However this is perhaps not so obvious from this recording. Alessandro Marangoni was born in Italy in 1970 and has had a varied career since he graduated in music and philosophy. He can certainly play the notes, but unfortunately is reluctant to follow all of Rossini’s directions, especially as regards dynamics, and has an irritating way of varying speeds without any direction to that effect in a way that is more than can be legitimately be described as rubato. The result is that the music lacks the sharpness of focus that is surely an essential part of the character of this composer’s music. Similar comments apply throughout the disc, for instance to the very lovely Une caresse à ma femme – one of those used by Respighi in La Boutique Fantasque. Here Rossini asks for two tempi – Andantino at the start and end, and Allegretto moderatissimo for the central section. Marangoni makes little difference between them and this blurs the overall character and form of the piece.

I am sorry to have to be negative about a disc containing music which is still relatively little known and which deserves the wider currency that this disc is likely to have. It is well recorded and is probably still worth having for the sake of the music itself, but it is really little more than a stopgap until a more idiomatic version becomes available. 

John Sheppard


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