Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740-1816)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major (1780-83) [23:58]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in A major (c. 1783-1788) [12:44]
Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major (c.1783-1788) [12:55]
Francesco Nicolosi (piano)
Compania Chamber Orchestra/Luigi Piovano
rec. Il Palazzo reale di Caserta e Borboni di Napoli, Caserta, Italy, 12-14 May 2007
NAXOS 8.572065 [49:51]

What a find this is: keyboard concertos to rival those of Mozart in delight and charm.

Giovanni Paisiello was a prolific composer of operas - over eighty of them - and his work rivalled that of Mozart. Born in Taranto, Paisiello studied with Jesuits before moving to Naples for advanced studies. He composed operas for venues all over Italy including Parma, Modena, Bologna, Venice, Rome and Naples. He was recommended to the Russian court at St Petersburg in the days of Catherine II. In addition to his operatic works, he wrote music in other genres including orchestral works. There are eight keyboard concertos.

Paisiello’s First Piano Concerto, the most substantial of the three recorded here, was written for harpsichord between 1780 and 1783 during the composer’s years in St Petersburg. It is dedicated to Her Excellency, Signora de Sinnavine, a Lady-in-Waiting to the Russian Empress. This dainty, feminine, concerto has great charm. A light-fingered Nicolosi deftly realizes its gentle playfulness, poignancy and delicacy especially in the delightful, lyrical Larghetto. The piano part is deftly balanced and sensitively supported by Piovano’s ensemble, the strings mildly yearning, and woodwinds singing plaintively.

The Piano Concerto No. 3’s opening Allegro is animated, sunny and good humoured. It is, at times, a little reminiscent of the cries of farmyard birds - pre-echoing Respighi’s The Birds. The pace slows for the central Largo which persists in A major thus minimising melancholy. There is a graciously, demure melodic cadenza that is echoed in stately fashion by the strings. The Minuetto closes this little concerto with wit and charm. Equally brief and no less appealing is the Fifth Piano Concerto. This is scored for keyboard, two horns and strings. The first movement’s piano part sparkles; it’s decorations exquisite and its runs and arpeggios sunny. Another poignant Largo forms the tiny central movement. Nicolosi endows the whole with beguiling grace and refinement.

Paisiello’s Second and Fourth Concertos have been recorded on Naxos 8.557031.

This CD may be short measure in its 50 minutes running time, but it is utterly charming.

Ian Lace