Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Ninth Naxos Volume of Rossini’s “Sins”

courtesy of Naxos of America

Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni and/or Naxos seem to be back on track in releasing albums of the fourteen unpublished volumes of music that Gioachino Rossini composed between 1857 and his death in 1868, collected under the title Péchés de vieillesse (sins of old age). Reader may recall that this project “went dark” between February of 2015 and this past April, apparently because Marangoni needed to set aside some time for research. That research led to the discovery of “chamber music and rarities,” whose fruits first appeared in the eighth volume of the series, which is the one released in April. That album included eight pieces that had not yet been assigned to any of the Péchés volumes.

A little less than two weeks ago, Naxos released the ninth volume in the series. Among the eighteen tracks on this album are five more of those “unassigned” pieces, one only a minute in duration and the other four significantly briefer. The minute-long piece includes soprano Laura Giordano; and the shorter pieces are piano solos.

Among those solo pieces, one is an allegretto given the title “del pantelegrafo.” The pantelegraph may well may well be the first working implementation of what we would now call fax technology. It was developed by Giovanni Caselli, who was teaching physics and the University of Florence; and it was used commercially in the 1860s. Rossini’s short piece assumed its subtitle because the manuscript had been transmitted by Caselli’s device.

The new album again carries a subtitle: Chamber Music and Rarities • 2. The “unassigned” pieces clearly fall into the “rarities” category; and the four minuscule pieces are the only piano solos on the album. All the other tracks are songs for solo voice and piano, featuring tenor Alessandro Luciano and baritone Bruno Taddia, as well as Giordano. All three of these vocalists seem to take it for granted that Rossini wanted them to have fun with these pieces, and it is easy to appreciate both the good humor of their delivery and the rhetorical reinforcement that Marangoni provides.

Nevertheless, I must confess that I am beginning to wonder about how many releases remain in this project. According to my records, only a few of the volumes have been recorded in entirety; and none of the selections from Volume XIII have been recorded at all. Then there is the question of whether or not Marangoni’s research has been turning up even more of those “unassigned” pieces. The Wikipedia page for Péchés claims that the entire collection consists of 150 pieces. According to my records, Naxos has released 157 tracks, thirteen of which are “unassigned.” My guess is that the Wikipedia author short-changed the count and that there will be more than one further album coming out before the entire project is complete.

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