WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Paolo Giacometti (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CCS 18098
In the last decade of his life, Rossini reinvented himself as a witty salon composer, calling his pieces ‘Sins of Old Age’. Among them is an Album of Trifles – a collection of 24 piano pieces in which waltz-time prevails, whether the tempo is lively or relaxed. They are full of allusions, specific or general, as befits music intended to entertain a select and well-informed group of listeners. The very first piece in this selection features the first four notes of the Big Ben chimes, which became operational in 1859; it includes some bravura passages which Rossini, who called himself a pianist of the fourth class, almost certainly couldn’t have managed himself. In the penultimate piece here, he plays the mean trick of giving the pianist rapid repeated chords, obviously to prompt a smile. The right hand of No. 14 whirrs like some mechanical insect.
Paolo Giacometti has both the technique and the sense of humour to relish all this and make it sparkle. He’s shown on the CD cover polishing the pedals of the 1837 Érard used in the recording. Strictly speaking, such an early instrument wasn’t necessary, but its bright stringy tone and slightly nasal quality suit the music well. Adrian Jack