Rossini: Cookbook

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Cookbook
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’).

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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.

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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