Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Eighth Naxos Volume of Rossini’s “Sins”

courtesy of Naxos of America

One of my ongoing projects at involved following the efforts of Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni to record the fourteen unpublished volumes of music that Gioachino Rossini composed between 1857 and his death in 1868. These volumes were filled with relatively short pieces composed mostly, but not entirely, for solo piano, which Rossini called collectively Péchés de vieillesse (sins of old age). By February of 2015, Naxos had released seven volumes of recordings that Marangoni played and/or supervised.

Then things went dark. My own sources made it clear that Marangoni had not completed his project, and I began to fear that he might have abandoned it. However, it turns out that he has been busy on the research side. This Friday Naxos will finally release the eighth volume in this series; and, as usual, is currently taking pre-orders for it. The new album is the first in a series-within-the-series, so to speak, entitled Chamber Music and Rarities • 1; and that title basically refers to Marangoni’s recent research efforts.

Those efforts are most evident on eight tracks, which record recently discovered manuscripts that were clearly intended as “sins” that had not yet been assigned to any of Rossini’s volumes. As a result this album offers the world premiere recordings of all eight of them. Five of them are for solo piano, two are for violin and piano, and one is for cello and piano. Also, for the record, Marangoni’s efforts to date these pieces revealed that at least three of them (one remains undated) were written earlier than 1857, when Rossini first began to assemble his “sins” into collections.

There are three other world premiere recordings. One of these is from Volume VIII, which Rossini called Album de château. This involves a rather peculiar alternation of contrasts. The piano plays an earthy tarantella, which is interrupted several times by a religious procession sung by a small choir (the Ars Cantica Choir) accompanied by harmonium with church bells in the background. The other two are songs for baritone (Bruno Taddia) and piano included in Volume XIV, which was called simply Altri [other] Péchés de vieillesse.

The result amounts to a novelty album, rich with opportunities for discovery. These are still light pieces, meaning that the discoveries themselves are neither profound nor intense. Nevertheless, they are consistently diverting, which is probably all that Rossini expected of them.

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