Rossini: Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 12 –Quelques riens pour album Nos 1-24

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ALBUM TITLE: Piano works, Vol. 4
WORKS: Péchés de vieillesse, Vol. 12 –Quelques riens pour album Nos 1-24
PERFORMER: Stefan Irmer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 618 1260-2
In the 24 pieces of this final volume of the ‘Sins of Old Age’ Rossini wrote during the last ten years of his life, he abandoned the wryly sarcastic titles along the lines of ‘Prélude asthmatique’ and ‘Valse torturée’ which he had used in the previous instalments, in favour of a single generic name: ‘Un rien’ (a nothing). Despite the label, some of the pieces are on quite a large scale, and one or two of them find Rossini exercising his counterpoint, though he’s never in danger of taking himself too seriously. Most of these pieces are actually very slight indeed, and they need to be played with affection, warmth and a certain amount of humour, if they’re going to be worth listening to at all. Alas, Stefan Irmer appears to have none of these qualities: his playing is almost relentlessly hard and unyielding, and he has little idea of how to shape a musical phrase – or, indeed, a left-hand accompaniment in repeated chords. And while his keyboard technique is certainly impressive, it’s difficult to know why he feels the need to charge through the music at such speed. All in all, a rather dispiriting experience. Misha Donat