This well-filled double-disc set was first released in 1994
and re-issued a decade later by the German Arts label. Arts
are in fact still selling the originals. Aside from the new
cover picture, this repackaging by Brilliant provides new notes
by Malcolm MacDonald.
Surprisingly perhaps, especially to those who know Paisiello
only as a composer of operatic or sacred music, this is not
the sole recording of all eight concertos, though the original
Arts release was the first. It was soon followed by Mariaclara
Monetti and the English Chamber Orchestra on ASV (229) in 1996.
Also, Naxos have to date made the first five Concertos available,
featuring Italian pianist Francesco Nicolosi with the Campania
Chamber Orchestra (review)
and Collegium Philarmonicum (review).
Apart from these, however, there are just one or two insignificant
recordings of individual works.
Soloist Pietro Spada has played an important role in the re-discovery
of Paisiello's keyboard concertos - not strictly piano: the
first two were written specifically for harpsichord, the rest
for fortepiano - that goes beyond these trailblazing performances.
For one thing, most of them were published by him in the late
1970s. For another, he wrote cadenzas for all but two of the
works, so well-suited that they were used again by Monetti for
her ASV set.
It would be wrong to exaggerate the significance of Paisiello's
Concertos. As a rule of thumb, the higher the Concerto number,
the better Paisiello's writing, due in part, no doubt, to his
exposure to his friend Mozart's Piano Concerto in G, K453 in
1784, which must have opened his eyes and ears to possibilities
he had not imagined previously. That makes CD 2 definitely the
more interesting, with Concertos nos. 5, 6 and 8 constituting
Paisiello's best writing, along with the sole minor key work,
no.4 from CD 1.
On the whole, however, though thoroughly melodious and ideationally
interesting enough to burke ennui in the listener, nothing much
leaps off the page as profound or stunningly imaginative, although
Concerto no.8 at least comes close to genuine, memorable originality.
The works certainly never rise to the artistic heights of Mozart
and Haydn, with many of whose keyboard concertos they are contemporaneous.
Yet that should not really be a surprise: the first two were
composed while Paisiello was at the royal court in St Petersburg,
and dedicated to two ladies of the gentry. The remaining six
were commissioned by the Princess of Parma: in other words,
Paisiello sensibly made them sufficiently utilitarian to render
them acceptable and accessible to the competent amateurs paying
The Orchestra da Camera di Santa Cecilia and Pietro Spada give
a reasonable, technically sound account of the Concertos, though
they seem underwhelmed by Paisiello's music: Francesco Nicolosi
on Naxos offers a little more excitement. Malcolm MacDonald's
booklet notes are okay, though half the space they take up is
concerned with Paisiello's role as an opera composer, barely
relevant to these Concertos. MacDonald also all but contradicts
himself at one point: after stating that Paisiello's "eight
keyboard concertos demonstrate that he must have been a performer
of outstanding gifts" he says a page later, not altogether
elegantly, that Paisiello was "evidently a fine keyboard
player, but it is not clear whether his eight keyboard concertos
were written with himself in mind as soloist."
Whether Brilliant or Arts are responsible, there is more than
a suspicion of added reverberation at the ends of movements
- in fact, the degree is faintly ludicrous - but otherwise sound
is reasonably good, though the strings sometimes come across
a bit muddy. The recording can be characterised as intimate,
which is apt, but the piano is possibly a little too prominent
in its placement. The booklet gives the wrong recording year
for CD 2 - not 1989, but 1992, recorded at the same time as
the first CD, at least according to Arts' original discs.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk