PERFORMER: Various soloists and orchestras
CATALOGUE NO: 434 958-2 DDD
Sony got TV chef Keith Floyd to help out with its recent dinner classics. Philips has gone one better: its Rossini bicentenary CD comes with a cookbook by the composer himself. Oddly, Tournedos Rossini is nowhere to be found. There are, however, 26 other dishes, ranging from the appetising Torta alla Guglielmo Tell (apple pie with a candy crossbow on top) – to the alarming Cotolette di Castrati (cold cuts for countertenors?). Only four come with anything like exact measurements; for the rest it’s ‘add to taste’ – and Rossini’s tastes were definitely dear. Forget the chips – this great gastronome’s recipe for life was truffles with everything (he called them ‘the Mozart among Mushrooms’).
Sadly there is nothing especially culinary about the accompanying CD – although the bustling overture, that to The Silken Ladder, might serve to drown out any last- minute panic in the kitchen, while the William Tell extract could well accompany the savouries (what with that famous apple and a cast of characters – Melcthal, Gessler, Leuthold – that reads more like a list of particularly smelly Swiss cheeses). Yet a little à la carte browsing through the DG and Decca catalogues (as helped fill out last year’s Mozart edition) could have given us not only a genuine ‘Rice Aria’ (‘Di tanti palpiti’ from Tancredi, so-called because Rossini allegedly wrote it while cooking risotto) but also Don Magnifico’s inebriated toast to vino from Cenerentola, or even the great banquet finale from Viaggio.
As it is, the set menu offers a perfectly acceptable sampler of the current Philips Rossini catalogue, served up in bite-sized chunks, with generous helpings of roulades from June Anderson, Francisco Araiza, José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé at her peaches-and-creamiest best. A few courses short of a feast, but a tasteful tribute nevertheless to a composer who once called eating, loving, singing and digesting (in that order) ‘the four acts of this great comic opera called life’. Mark Pappenheim