Rossini: L’album pour les enfants dégourdis

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LABELS: Channel
WORKS: L’album pour les enfants dégourdis
PERFORMER: Paolo Giacometti (piano)
When Rossini wrote the first of the piano pieces that make up most of his ‘Sins of Old Age’, he was breaking a silence of just under 30 years, having unexpectedly retired from the operatic stage in 1829, when he was at the height of his powers and his international celebrity. In dedicating them ‘to the fourth-rate pianists of the world’ (among whom he claimed to have an unrivalled position), he was too modest. While none of the pieces is a virtuosic showstopper, a lot of them are a good deal harder than he makes out. Dished up a few at a time, they make excellent hors d’oeuvres. As a full meal, on the other hand (as both these very attractively played discs clearly demonstrate) their charm begins to pall. Ideally, they require an old-fashioned Romantic virtuoso with a flair for the stylish and self-indulgent encore (Cherkassky, for instance, or Horowitz, or Rosenthal – shameless masters all in the art of pianistic flirtation). Giacometti plays an Erard piano from 1849, though its advantage over the modern instrument chosen by Irmer is hard to fathom. It’s not as though this is idiomatic piano-writing of any great subtlety. Good fun, though, it certainly is. Jeremy Siepmann