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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Piano Music - Volume 6
Péchés de vieillesse: Vols. 4, 6, 10, 14
Alessandro Marangoni (piano)
rec. Baroque Hall, Ivrea, Italy, 25-26 September 2012
NAXOS 8.573107 [70:27]

During the last decade of his life Rossini turned away from opera and devoted much of his time to composing music for the piano. Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni has been working with Naxos since 2006 to record the composer’s complete piano music and this latest release — the final one in the series? — is volume 6.
 
The Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age) occupy thirteen volumes, and the deliciously informal and comic fourth is called Quatre hors d’oeuvres et quatre mendiants. Its theme is food, and Rossini lavishes all his abundant abilities of characterisation in his descriptive passages, not least the introduction of a parrot in one of the pieces.
 
The music is comical, tuneful and entertaining. Maybe it’s best to dip in and out of the CD because after a few minutes it does tend to become too much of a good thing. This is salon music and the endless stream of good tunes — what a great gift — makes you yearn for something deeper after a time. It’s hard to describe just how peculiar some of this music is. Those who enjoy Gottschalk and Alkan will be more than content with these "Sins of Old Age". The composer’s Petite Messe Solennelle occupies a similar sound-world.
 
There’s undoubted craftsmanship in all of the miniatures presented here and there is often an element of Monty Python about it, especially in Les Raisins with its ridiculous voice-over of a parrot talking and then singing, courtesy of the pianist himself. It’s Rossini’s homage to the Cats duet for solo parrot. The Minuet sonne will be recognised as a piece that is used by Respighi in La Boutique Fantasque. The La beurre variations is highly entertaining with its dashing octaves, arpeggios and light-fingered, dazzling passage-work. Etude asthmatique is pure nonsense in a fun sort of way with its repetitive and comical moto perpetuo style.
 
Alessandro Marangoni sounds completely at home here and he presents the music with style, good humour and no mean virtuosity. The piano recording is sparkling, resonant and full. This is Rossini enjoying himself and sharing his joy with the general public. I haven’t heard the rest of the series (vol. 1; vol. 3; vol. 6) but if they are all up to this standard the pianist and Naxos must be congratulated.
 
John Whitmore
 
Track-list
 
Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 4: Quatre mendiants
No. 1. Les figues sèches: Me voilà - Bonjour madame
No. 2. Les amandes: Minuit sonne - Bonjour madame
No. 3. Les raisins: A ma petite perruche
No. 4. Les noisettes: A ma chère Nini
Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 4: Quatre hors d'oeuvres
No. 1. Les radis
No. 2. Les anchois: Thème et variations
No. 3. Les cornichons: Introduction
No. 4. Le beurre: Thème et variations
Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 10: Miscellanée pour piano (excerpts)
No. 4. Une bagatelle
No. 5. Mélodie italienne [une bagatelle] - In nomine Patris
Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 6: Album pour les enfants dégourdis
No. 11. Etude asthmatique
Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 14: other Péchés de vieillesse (excerpts)
No. 4. Petite promenade de Passy à Courbevoie
No. 8. Ritornelle gothique
No. 7. Tourniquet sur la gamme chromatique, ascendent et descendent
No. 6. Encore un peu de blague
No. 5. Une réjouissance
Waltz in E-Flat Major